MARION (WSIL) — Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths among men and women in the U-S.
But since the beginning of the pandemic, many have chosen to postpone, or cancel, preventative screenings.
“Colon cancer is a public health problem in the United States,” said Dr. Amar Mukerji, a colorectal surgeon at Heartland Regional Medical Center.
According to the American Cancer Society, 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.
But the pandemic had unanticipated affects on those who would otherwise schedule an appointment.
“We stopped doing it for a while. And then people were more hesitant. Because it’s preventative, it’s not a treatment,” said Dr. Mukerji.
Dr. Mukerji also said why screening for colorectal cancer is so important.
“So what screening does is, it picks up the cancer in an earlier stage where the treatment works even better. For example, for stage one tumors, it’s a 90% plus cure rate, like you are cured of the cancer,” said Dr. Mukerji.
Because screening for colorectal cancer is so effective, it cannot only detect early cancer stages, but also detect polyps before they become cancerous.
“And if you look at the data from the last several decades, the number of new cases is actually coming down slowly for colon cancers in the United States. And we believe that this is in part due to the successes of early screening,” said Dr. Mukerji.
For those worried about COVID-19, everyone is tested before a screening, and everyone wears masks while the screening takes place.
“I would say it’s safer to get a colonoscopy than to go to the grocery store,” said Dr. Mukerji.
As more people get vaccinated and COVID-19 numbers go down, Dr. Mukerji said more people are getting screened again.
“But now things are getting better. And I would encourage people to get the age appropriate screening,” said Dr. Mukerji.
The American Cancer Society has updated screening guidelines.
It’s recommended people at average risk start colonoscopy screening at age 45 and continue every 10 years.