American Cancer Society: Missed colorectal cancer screenings during pandemic will lead to 4,500 excess deaths

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 4,500 excess deaths from colorectal cancer over the next decade.

The organization says that’s because so many people put off their colon cancer screenings during the pandemic. They estimate that 1.7 million people missed their colonoscopy from March until June of 2020. That translates to roughly 19,000 missed or delayed cancer diagnoses during that three-month time period.

Dr. Bradley Rice with Alabama Colon & Gastro says that while they are starting to see colonoscopy appointments be booked more often, the numbers are still low.

 “We’re still not back at our baseline nationally, which causes some serious concern about long-term consequences,” Rice said.

Rice frequently performs colonoscopies at Crestwood Medical Center.

Roslyn Richardson, Crestwood’s Infection Control Coordinator, says they have started to resume performing elective procedures, including cancer screenings. She says patients should not put off getting screened because of the pandemic.

“We’ve been dealing with COVID for 18 months – close to two years now – so we know exactly what to do to keep our patients safe,” Richardson said. “So you don’t want to put [cancer screenings] off any longer. You want to get them as they’re recommended by your primary care physician.”

The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women who do not have a family history of colon cancer begin regular screenings at age 45. Dr. Rice says his office has started to see more cases of colorectal cancer in younger patients.

“You see the trend of 20 and 30-year-old people having colon cancer multiple times,” Rice said. “When I started 12 years ago you’d see it maybe once or twice. Now we’re seeing it once or twice a month.”

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