Colon cancer screening rates are significantly lower among Hispanic Americans over 50, and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer in advanced stages.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is a growth that begins in the colon, also known as the large intestine. Most colon cancers start as a polyp, a tiny growth that forms in the colon’s inner lining. Colon cancer often has no noticeable symptoms in the early stages. By the time warning signs occur, the cancer may be at an advanced stage.
Barriers to Colon Cancer Screening in Hispanic Populations
Studies show Hispanic Americans are less likely to get screened for colon cancer than Caucasians or African Americans. According to the National Colon Cancer Roundtable, one in two Hispanic adults between 50 and 75 years of age are not getting tested as recommended. Because of lower screening rates, colon cancer causes about 11 percent of cancer deaths among Hispanic males and nine percent among Hispanic females.
There are many possible obstacles to colon cancer screening in Hispanic populations:
- Language barriers—Research shows language is a barrier to colon cancer screening. Many websites, including the American Gastroenterological Association, provide colonoscopy resources in Spanish.
- Fewer doctor visits—Studies show Hispanic Americans are less likely to go to the doctor in the absence of sickness or symptoms.
- Reluctance about screening procedures—Talking about colonoscopies and stool samples can feel embarrassing for many people.
Importance of Quality Colon Cancer Screening
Even though colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, most cases are preventable with proper screening. The American Cancer Society suggests that all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45. There are two basic screening methods:
- Colonoscopy—A colonoscopy is the most effective screening test to prevent and detect colon cancer. This screening uses a narrow, lighted tube with a camera to view the colon and rectum. You will be asleep during the procedure. Your doctor can remove colon polyps during the exam, and this can help prevent you from getting colon cancer. If your test result is normal, you will not need another colonoscopy for ten years.
- Stool test—You can perform a stool test, such as the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), at home. A stool test may detect small amounts of blood that you cannot see. Blood in the stool can sometimes indicate colon cancer. You can receive a kit that allows you to collect a small amount of stool and send it to a lab to test for hidden blood. If your test is positive, you will then need to have a colonoscopy.
Common Myths About Colon Cancer and Colonoscopies
There are many misunderstandings and beliefs surrounding colon cancer, colon cancer screening and colonoscopy. Often, these myths prevent people from getting screened. Here are some common misconceptions about the disease and screening, along with facts about colon cancer and colonoscopy.
|“Colon cancer is a man’s disease.”||Colon cancer affects both genders. Men and women are both at risk for developing colon cancer.|
|“Colonoscopies take too much time. I will miss work, and I can’t afford that.”||You will only need to miss one day of work for a colonoscopy. There are also other screening options that do not require you to miss work.|
|“I can’t afford a colonoscopy.”||There are many ways to get a low-cost or free colonoscopy. Insurance covers colonoscopy screenings.|
|“Colonoscopies are not safe.”||The risk of injury during a colonoscopy is low. Not getting screened at all puts you at high risk for a deadly disease.|
|“Doctors just want money. They don’t care about my health.”||GI physicians work to save lives through colonoscopies. They want you to feel comfortable and confident about your upcoming procedure, so write down your questions and concerns and discuss them with your provider.|
|“I can’t get a colonoscopy because it’s too embarrassing.”||GI physicians and their teams perform colonoscopies on patients all the time, so there’s no need to be embarrassed! Besides, having a colonoscopy is the best way to prevent colon cancer. If you get a clean bill of health, you may not have to repeat the test for another 10 years.|
|“I don’t understand the procedure. I don’t feel like I’m in control.”||Ask your doctor for information like pamphlets and websites that can help you be more informed.|
For the sake of your health and your family, call today to make an appointment with your gastroenterologist. Colonoscopies save lives, so schedule yours today.