Your health can’t wait, diagnostic screenings are medically necessary procedures. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month; but a year into the coronavirus pandemic, a troubling public health issue is developing as people delay routine screenings, preventive care and even emergency care due to fear of COVID-19.
Hospitals, ERs and doctors’ offices are safe places to receive care.
Of the cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States and most common in people ages 50 and older. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer — that’s why it’s so important to get screened.
Waiting to see a doctor or go to the ER can result in a greater risk of complications, disability and lengthier recovery times if conditions are left undiagnosed or untreated.
It is important to remember that diagnostic screenings are medically necessary to determine the course of treatment for conditions like colorectal cancer. Some may think a colonoscopy is an elective procedure, but elective is still essential care that can be lifesaving and life-altering treatment.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50, said Dr. Pandey. Abrazo hospitals follow COVID safety procedures for emergency, inpatient and outpatient care, as the number of COVID-19 diagnoses continue trending downward. Don’t let COVID fatigue prevent getting the care you need.
People over age 50 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer, but younger people are being diagnosed at an alarming rate. And the risks increase for those who smoke, are African American, or have a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. That’s why screening is recommended for everyone age 50 to 75.
Colorectal cancer risk factors:
• Having polyps (growths) inside the colon.
• Having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer.
• Smoking cigarettes.
• Having obesity.
• Not getting enough physical activity.
• Drinking too much alcohol.
• Having certain health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, that cause chronic inflammation (ongoing irritation) of the small intestine and colon.
The most common method to screen for colorectal cancer is screening colonoscopy. It is recommended that average risk person should be screened regularly starting at the age of 50.
During colonoscopy, if polyp is found, it can be removed or biopsied and examined for diagnosis. Screening helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment works best.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still living five years later.
Precancerous polyps can become cancer. If precancerous polyp is removed, colorectal cancer can be prevented. If your doctor finds cancer during colonoscopy, you can take steps to get appropriate treatment right away.
To learn more about colorectal cancer, take a free online quiz at abrazohealth.com/health-assessments/colorectal-cancer-quiz. For help finding a physician near you, visit abrazohealth.com/find-a-doctor.
Dr. Sushil Pandey is a colorectal surgeon on the medical staff at Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear.