According to a recent article in the Washington Post, colon and breast cancer incidence may increase by 10,000 over the next decade because of coronavirus quarantine measures. Colon and breast cancer account for 17 percent of all cancer deaths, but even a short disruption in screenings could result in a one percent increase and almost one million deaths from these cancers over the next decade. Doctors fear new cases of colon cancer could go undiagnosed for longer periods of time and result in tumor detection at a later stage.
Although colonoscopy is not an elective surgery, most surgery centers halted colon cancer screenings beginning in March of 2020 due to the pandemic. According to a publication by the Epic Heath Research Network, screening appointments for breast cancer, cervical cancer and colon cancer decreased by 86 to 94 percent in March 2020, compared to screening rates between January 2017 and January 2020.
Patients and hospital systems are now advised to resume preventive screenings and testing, but it is difficult to measure the impact of delayed services. Austin Chiang, a gastroenterologist in Philadelphia, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “On a global scale, it’s a lot of screening procedures being deferred — and maybe some cancers that could develop in this time, as well.”
The American Cancer Society suggests all adults who are at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45. Even though Medicare and many insurance carriers do not cover screening colonoscopies until age 50, it is important to schedule this life-saving screening. When discovered early, the survival rate of colon cancer is as high as 90 percent.
Colon cancer prevention is far less expensive than colon cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening recommendations so you can get screened at proper intervals. It is also wise to call your insurance provider to receive the most updated information about your plan. Awareness is the first step in colon cancer prevention.
Did you miss your colonoscopy because of COVID-19? Reschedule your colon cancer screening as soon as possible. Your overall lifetime risk for developing colon cancer is 1 in 20, and the disease rarely presents with symptoms in the early stages. Therefore, it is imperative to take action based on the recommended timeline.
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