Colorectal Cancer ScreeningAt a Glance Screening & Results Your Risk Factors Myths & Facts Resources
Get the FIT – the colorectal cancer screening test which is easy to use, non-invasive and can be done at home.
Myths and Facts
Here are some things you may have heard about colorectal cancer and colorectal cancer screening — and the truth behind these common myths.
Myth #1: Colorectal cancer usually occurs in men.
Colorectal cancer affects both men and women. In Alberta, colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and third for women. Approximately 1 in 13 Albertan men and 1 in 16 Albertan women will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.
Colon cancer screening can help detect the disease early, when 90% of cases can be treated successfully. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Myth #2: Colorectal cancer cannot be prevented.
Colorectal cancer begins with small growths on the inner wall of the colon and rectum, called polyps. These can develop and exist over a long period of time before becoming cancer. Screening can find these polyps and they can be removed before they become cancer. Other ways to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer:
- Plan on getting screened regularly — take a FIT home stool test every year.
- Stay at a healthy body weight.
- Get regular exercise every day (ideally 30 minutes or more) — even if it’s a brisk walk or some yard work.
- Have fewer alcoholic drinks.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco in the form of snuff or chew.
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruits.
- Eat more fiber-rich foods like whole grains, beans, lentils, peas and bran.
- Eat less saturated fats that are found in foods like red meat and whole milk dairy products.
Myth #3: Colorectal cancer is deadly so there is no point in getting screened for it.
90% of colorectal cancer and colon cancer cases can be treated effectively if found in the early stages. Screening is the only way to detect colorectal cancer early.
Myth #4: You do not need to be screened for colorectal cancer if you feel fine and have regular bowel movements.
Colorectal cancer can develop and exist over a long period of time without any symptoms so it’s important to be screened even when you feel healthy. By the time there are symptoms, the cancer may be at an advanced stage when the chances of successful treatment are much lower. Please see your doctor immediately if you have symptoms like blood in your stool, narrower than normal stools, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss or constant tiredness/weakness.
Myth #5: You do not need to be screened for colorectal cancer if you have no family history of colorectal cancer.
Most people with colorectal cancer have no family history of the disease. Only 10-20% of people with the disease have a family history of it. That’s why it’s important for everyone aged 50 and over to be screened regularly.
Myth #6: You only need to be screened for colorectal cancer after symptoms appear.
By the time you have symptoms, the cancer has usually grown and spread, making it more difficult to treat. Colorectal cancers that are found early through screening can often be treated successfully.
Myth #7: You don’t have to have a FIT home stool test repeated if you had one done 5 years ago.
A FIT home stool test — also known as a Fecal Immunochemical Test — should be repeated every year to be sure there haven’t been any changes.