March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Here are the most common myths about this disease that I hear from my patients.
“I feel fine, I have no pain or feel any lumps- there is no way for me to have colon cancer”
Most patients who underwent screening colonoscopy and a colon cancer were found did NOT have any symptoms. Most importantly, those are the cases that are curable! By the time symptoms developed, unfortunately it is often already too late. 91% of patients with cancer that were detected early are alive and well 5 years after diagnosis. But only 37% of all colorectal cancer are diagnosed at this stage- we can do better, this is the most preventable cancer with screening.
“Colorectal cancer only happens to old white men.”
Despite the recommendation of getting the first colonoscopy at age 50 for those without a family history – colorectal cancer affects both men and women. About 67,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be in women this year – the THIRD leading cause of death among women! Sadly, more Hispanic and African Americans are diagnosed in the advance stages of colorectal cancer.
“Colonoscopies are painful and scary – AND it’s embarrassing.”
No one likes to have their bottom looked at – sedation is given during the colonoscopy- the patient does not feel any pain or discomfort. There are a variety of preps that makes the whole process so much easier – including pills! It’s better to detect a cancer early than to die of embarrassment. Besides, we see so many butts that we don’t remember anyone!
“I don’t have any family history of colon cancer- I don’t need to be scoped.”
Only 25% of patients with colon cancer have a family history that means the other 75% did NOT have a family history! Men and women who are at high risk because of a personal or family history of bowel disease should be screened before age 50. It does not mean you cannot get cancer before that age! Patients in the 20s also have been known to get colon cancer. Talk to your colorectal surgeon or health care profession about the timing of when you should be screened.
Don’t Die From Embarrassment – be aware – take charge of your own health – get scoped!
Dr. Alex Jenny Ky is an Associate Professor of Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Mount Sinai. As a member of the Division of Colon & Rectal Surgery, Dr. Ky is an expert in laparoscopic and robotic colon and rectal surgery. Dr. Ky is the first physician in New York City to use a sacral nerve stimulator and one of the few physicians in New York City treating fecal incontinence with the use of an artificial anal sphincter.