The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways. From finances to health and other aspects of life, it has changed how we live each day. In particular, many common medical check-ups, screenings, and elective procedures have been put on hold or delayed. One of these, the colonoscopy, has seen significantly decreased rates during the pandemic. This is a serious issue, as we know colonoscopies are a key screening strategy to prevent colorectal cancer. On today’s blog, we’ll take a look at how the pandemic has affected colonoscopies.
Colonoscopies During the Pandemic
Early on in the pandemic in 2020, medical practices put many elective and non-essential medical visits and procedures on hold. As a result, screenings for cancer like colonoscopies dropped significantly. One study examining screening rates in the San Francisco area found that colonoscopies decreased about 90% from February to May 2020. This coincided with an 85% decrease in fecal immunochemical testing (FIT), another screening method in the same time frame. There was also a 70% decrease in all in-person appointments, and a 60% increase in telehealth visits. Another report estimated that if that trend continued through early June 2020, there could be around 19,000 missed colorectal cancer diagnoses and over 4,000 additional colorectal cancer deaths across the United States.
These are significant impacts, and compound existing inequities in health outcomes. Many groups that have an increased risk of colorectal cancer have also experienced a higher risk of death from the coronavirus. These groups include Black, Native American, and Hispanic people.
Clearly, the pandemic has caused cascading public health problems. Fortunately, as we have learned more about the coronavirus, medical practices have been able to respond to transmission threats to practice safely. Masking, social distancing, sanitizing, and now vaccinations for medical staff have helped to create safe spaces for patients to receive medical care.
Importance of Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Screening for colorectal cancer is extremely important. When properly done, it has a high success rate at cancer prevention. With a colonoscopy, doctors can identify and remove precancerous polyps that could otherwise develop into cancer over time. The colonoscopy is the gold standard for screenings. When patients get colonoscopies on a proper schedule, the incidence of colorectal cancer falls by around 90%.
Gastro Health Partners, in line with various other organizations, is now endorsing regular screenings starting at age 45. Previously, 50 was the standard for beginning screenings. By changing this to 45, we can prevent more potential cases of cancer and save lives. If you are close to 45 or older, talk with your doctor about getting screened. They will take your situation into account and may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings depending on factors like family history and personal history of polyps.
Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience screening for colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Read more about how we perform screenings here. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.