There is a lot of misinformation about colon cancer, so we're breaking down some of the most persistent myths and giving you the real facts instead.
Myth: I don't need to be tested as I do not have a family history of colon cancer or stomach/bowel problems.
Age is the most important risk factor
for colon cancer. Every year, almost 3,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in BC – over 94% of these are in men and women aged 50 or older. Individuals in this age group should be routinely tested.
I have no symptoms
of colon cancer and do not need to take the test.
is only recommended for people who are not experiencing symptoms that may indicate colon cancer. Screening finds the hidden signs of colon cancer. In its early stages, there may be no symptoms – that is why screening is so important. If colon cancer is detected at its earliest stage, the chance of survival is over 90%. If you are experiencing symptoms, talk to your health care provider about a referral for diagnostic testing.
Fact: Routine screening is important. Like many forms of cancer, you may not have symptoms until the cancer has grown. By taking this test every two years, you can detect the hidden signs of colon cancer early when there are more treatment options and better outcomes.
Myth: The test is 100% accurate.
Fact: Screening finds many non-cancerous polyps and colon cancers, but no screening test is perfect. There is a chance that a cancer can be missed if it was not bleeding when the screening test was taken. However, regular screening offers the best chance of detecting the early signs of colon cancer. It is also important, even if you have had a normal result, to monitor your own health and see your health care provider immediately if you have any symptoms, including blood in your stool, changes in your bowel habits, and abdominal pain.
Myth: Colon cancer screening is unavailable in my area.
Fact: Colon cancer screening is available through primary care providers in BC.
Fact: As with any medical procedure, colonoscopy has a small risk of complications. Approximately 5/1,000 people will have a serious complication. Complications include having a reaction to the medication used for sedation, heart or lung problems, developing an infection, bleeding from the colon, and/or perforation of the colon (hole in the colon). If a complication occurs, medication such as antibiotics, a blood transfusion, a hospitalization, a repeat colonoscopy, or an operation may be required. The risk of dying from colonoscopy is less than 1/14,000. There is also a risk of missing a significant abnormality. This occurs in less than 1/10 cases.