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.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. But a year into the coronavirus pandemic, a troubling public health issue is developing. People are delaying 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, however.
“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,” explained Dr. Pandey. “Some may think a colonoscopy is an ‘elective’ procedure, but ‘elective’ is still essential care which 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,” he said.
People older than 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 include:
The most common method to screen for colorectal cancer is a screening colonoscopy. It is recommended that and average-risk person should be screened regularly starting at age 50. During colonoscopy, if a 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,” explained Dr. Pandey.
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.
Abrazo Health includes Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear and Abrazo Buckeye Emergency Center in Buckeye, Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital, Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, Abrazo Central Campus, Abrazo Mesa Hospital, Abrazo Scottsdale Campus and Abrazo Surprise Hospital, along with freestanding emergency centers, urgent care, primary care and specialty physician practices. For more information, visit AbrazoHealth.com.