Get back on track with colon cancer screening

File photo of physicians performing a colonoscopy (Copyright 2021 by Cleveland Clinic News Service. All rights reserved.)

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

When the pandemic began, you may have had a colonoscopy postponed for a short time to help conserve equipment and supplies.

But these life-saving cancer screenings have been back for a while now and it’s time to get routine colonoscopies back on track.

“It’s critically important that we continue with our health maintenance because colorectal cancer is something we can stop in its tracks,” said Scott Steele, MD, chairman of the Department of Colorectal Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

Medical centers have seen concerning declines in the number of people coming in for routine colonoscopies.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and doctors fear delays in screening and diagnosis may lead to more advanced stage cancers and poor outcomes.

Colorectal cancer is preventable when pre-cancerous polyps are found and removed, that’s why screening is so important.

Dr. Steele said a colonoscopy is considered the ‘gold standard’ in colorectal screening, but at-home options are available too.

“There’s a couple of different tests that are out there but, in essence, it’s essentially taking a sample of stool, wipe it on a card, send it in and that can be a screening test to see is there blood in the stool that would warrant another further investigation,” said Dr. Steele.

The American Cancer Society recommends adults at average risk for colorectal cancer be screened at age 45.

People at high risk, including those with a family history of polyps or colon cancer, may be due sooner.

If you’re worried about contracting COVID-19 at a medical facility, Dr. Steele said it may ease your mind to learn about safety measures in place, and encourages calling your doctor.