Since March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it’s time to debunk some of the myths surrounding colon cancer. When is the last time you discussed your poop with a friend, family member, or doctor? For most people, the answer is never. Because it is such a taboo subject, there are plenty of untruths going around about the risks and causes of colon cancer and what is considered a “healthy” poop.
- Healthy people poop at least once every day, and if you don’t, it can lead to cancer. Every person’s pooping habits are different, but as long as you poop more than three times a week, it is considered normal. You should poop one ounce for every 12 pounds of body weight so if you weigh around 180 pounds, you produce approximately a pound of poop per day.
- Holding your poop in and delaying going to the bathroom is bad. While holding it in for extended periods is not harmful (although it might be uncomfortable), it can lead to constipation if done regularly.
- A “healthy” poop won’t make a splash in the toilet. In reality, there is no specific sound your poop should make so don’t be concerned if it changes from one day to another. Rather, look out for blood in stool in which case call your doctor.
- Colon cancer is an old man’s disease. The truth is that colon cancer affects men and women equally and occurs in every race; however, African-Americans are higher risk. It has also been increasing in young adults.
- If I don’t have any symptoms, then I can’t have colon cancer. Up to 50% of people who have colon cancer have no symptoms, but, if there are symptoms such as blood in the stool or unexplained weight loss, the cancer may be more advanced.
- I don’t need a colonoscopy because colon cancer doesn’t run in my family. More than half of all colon cancers cannot be linked to a genetic cause. It is recommended that everyone aged 50 years and older have a colonoscopy every 10 years regardless of risk factors; however, if you are younger and at a higher risk, your Gastroenterologist may want you to be tested earlier than age 50.
- Getting a diagnosis of colon cancer means that I’m going to die. When detected early, colon cancer can be successfully treated with 92% of patients who have stage I cancer living past the five-year mark. This makes screening crucial for all adults who are at risk.
Knowing the facts about colon cancer and getting a colonoscopy when recommended can save your life. When talking to your physician about screening, consider asking the following questions:
- Which screening test do you recommend?
- What preparations are involved with this test?
- What is the test like? Will it be painful?
- What are the risks?
- How long will it take for me to get the results?
- If the test is negative for cancer, when do I have to have it repeated?
- What happens if the test shows that I do have colon cancer?
Being involved in your care will help you to feel in control of your health and your body. The Gastroenterologists at Digestive Health Associates of Texas are experts in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of colorectal cancer. They strive to help you make sense of the tests and the results and work closely with you and your family to develop a plan that most closely meets your needs. Discuss all of your concerns about having a colonoscopy, but don’t delay getting screened for colon cancer, especially if you have symptoms that you are worried about. Save your life, get tested!