March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
When the pandemic began, you may have had your colonoscopy postponed for a short time to help conserve equipment and supplies. But these life-saving cancer screenings have been back for a while now.
“It’s critically important that we continue with that health maintenance because it is something we can stop in its tracks, lower those numbers of those high rates of cancer-related deaths in the US and worldwide,” said Dr. Scott Steele of Cleveland Clinic.
Medical centers have seen concerning declines in the number of people coming in for routine colonoscopies. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and doctors fear delays in screening and diagnosis may lead to more advanced stage cancers and poor outcomes.
Colorectal cancer is preventable when pre-cancerous polyps are found and removed. That’s why screening is so important.
Dr. Steele says a colonoscopy is considered the gold standard in colorectal screening, but at-home options are also available.
“There’s a couple of different tests that are out there but, in essence, it’s essentially taking a piece of stool,” Dr. Steele said “It’s something you can do right in the own comforts of your home, to be able to take a sample of stool, wipe it on a card, send it in and that can be a screening test to see, is there blood in the stool that would warrant another further investigation?”
The American Cancer Society recommends adults at average risk for colorectal cancer can be screened at age 45. People at high risk, including those with a family history of polyps or colon cancer, may be due sooner.
If you’re worried about contracting COVID-19 at a medical facility, Dr. Steele says it may ease your mind to learn about the safety measures in place. He encourages you to reach out to your physician.