Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer assassin in the United States. It is most prevalent 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.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Nevertheless, a year into the coronavirus pandemic, a troubling public health issue is formulating. People are postponing 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.
“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,” said Dr Sushil Pandey, a colorectal surgeon on the medical staff at Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear.
“It is important to remember that diagnostic screenings are medically necessary to determine the course of treatment for conditions like colorectal cancer,” Pandey said. “Some may think a colonoscopy is an ‘elective’ procedure, but ‘elective’ is still essential care which can be lifesaving and life-altering treatment.”
Pandey said the acceptable way to stave off colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. Abrazo hospitals pursue COVID-19 safety procedures for an emergency, inpatient, and outpatient care as the number of COVID-19 diagnoses goes on with trending downward.
“Don’t let COVID fatigue prevent getting the care you need,” he said.
People older than 50 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer, but younger people are diagnosed at a startling rate. And the risks rise for those who smoke, are African American, or have a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps.
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.
Certain health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, cause chronic inflammation (ongoing irritation) of the small intestine and colon.
The most common procedure to screen for colorectal cancer is screening colonoscopy. It is suggested that the average-risk person should be screened regularly, starting at the age of 50. If a polyp is found during a colonoscopy, it can be removed or biopsied and examined for diagnosis. Screening helps find colorectal cancer at an initial stage when treatment serves best.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9 out of every ten people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated suitably are still living five years later.
“Precancerous polyps can become cancer. If a 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,” Pandey said.