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

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

The organization says it’s because so many people have postponed their colon cancer screening during the pandemic. They estimate that 1.7 million people missed their colonoscopies from March to June 2020. That translates to about 19,000 missed or delayed cancer diagnoses during that three-month period.

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

“We are still not back to our baseline nationally, which raises serious concerns about the long-term consequences,” Rice said.

Rice frequently performs colonoscopies at Crestwood Medical Center.

Roslyn Richardson, infection control coordinator at Crestwood, says they have started to resume elective procedures, including cancer screenings. She says patients shouldn’t delay testing because of the pandemic.

“We’ve been battling COVID for 18 months – almost 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 longer. You want to get them as they are 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 people in their 20s and 30s having colon cancer multiple times,” Rice said. “When I started 12 years ago, you saw it maybe once or twice. Now we see him once or twice a month.