Don’t Allow Colorectal Cancer To Sneak Up On You
Typically, there are misconceptions surrounding wellness checks that prevent people from coming in to be screened. Certain things shouldn’t be avoided. Colorectal cancer can sneak up from behind, just when you least expect it. Bayhealth Gastroenterologist Muhammad Hanafi, MD, helps de-bunk five common myths surrounding colorectal cancer screenings and why you shouldn’t wait to be checked.
- Myth: “I don’t have symptoms so I must not need a colonoscopy.”
The point of screening examinations is to detect colorectal cancer early. A colonoscopy will detect polyps, that can be easily removed during the procedure, before they turn cancerous. “If you have symptoms, it more than likely means we are past the stage of prevention,” said Dr. Hanafi.
- Myth: “The preparation for a colonoscopy is dreadful.”
Preparing for the procedure is not a one size fits all. There are multiple methods—tablet or liquid— and they’ve been getting simpler over the years. “If you’re well prepared, you’ll be benefiting yourself,” shared Dr. Hanafi. “The cleaner you’re able to get your colon, the better the test can perform and catch even the tiniest polyp.”
- Myth: “A colonoscopy is painful.”
Customarily, the process is very smooth without any pain. “During the procedure, the patient is sedated so they truly don’t feel anything,” said Dr. Hanafi. They use water immersion instead of air, so it is a gentler process than it used to be. Even after you wake from the procedure, pain is not routinely experienced. You’re able to begin eating and drinking again as you feel up to it.
- Myth: “I am not at risk for colorectal cancer.”
There are certain individuals that are considered higher risk for colorectal cancer based on family history, gender, or if they are symptomatic. “If you do have a family history of colorectal cancer, you will want to be checked 10 years prior to the age of your family member’s diagnosis,” said Dr. Hanafi. I.E. If your father was diagnosed at 52, then you should start screening at 42. However, even average risk—meaning no family medical history, no symptoms, etc.—are recommended to begin screening at 45.
- Myth: “A colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colorectal cancer.”
“Colonoscopy is still the primary screening method for those that are considered high risk,” shares Dr. Hanafi. However, Cologuard, a stool-based test is an option for average risk patients. This test checks for abnormal DNA or any presence of blood in the stool.
Prevention is key to getting ahead of colorectal cancer. The first step of screening is understanding the procedure beforehand. Lifestyle can make a difference, too. Focus on a balanced diet, exercise and lessening processed foods. Discuss it with your own primary care physician and choose a form of screening that is right for you.
Visit Bayhealth.org/Get-Screened to learn more.