Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and health have become some of the most important priorities on society’s list of concerns. When COVID first came to the United States in late March of this year, it was recommended that all non-emergency medical procedures be put on hold for a few months due to the uncertainty surrounding how to combat the virus. However, in recent months, healthcare providers in some states are beginning to offer elective procedures again.
We understand why you might be hesitant to go forward with an elective endoscopic procedure at this time, and it’s important to check with your doctor if you have questions or concerns. The experienced gastroenterologists at Digestive Health Centers are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have concerning your recommended endoscopic procedure. Cancer detection is a very compelling reason to go ahead and schedule your procedure, however, so if you’re due for a screening colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or upper endoscopy, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube with a tiny video camera on the end is passed through your rectum and large intestine to look for (and remove) early signs of colorectal cancer or potentially precancerous polyps. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer begin screening at age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or other personal risk factors, you may need to begin regular cancer screening even earlier.
Although COVID has interrupted things a bit, the ACS is now recommending that you return to your regularly scheduled cancer screenings as soon as it is safe to do so. Your gastroenterologist can discuss your risk factors and help you to determine when to schedule your next screening colonoscopy. However, it’s important to remember that cancer screenings are intended to catch cancers early in patients who aren’t showing any symptoms yet. Early detection can make a big difference in both the aggressiveness of your recommended treatment method and in your cancer survivability rates.
Norman Sharpless, the director of the National Cancer Institute, estimates that the United States will see an additional 10,000 deaths from breast cancer and colon cancer combined over the next 10 years due to COVID-19 delays. He points out that this is a conservative estimate, and that his model predicts only a minor (6-month) disruption in treatment. The longer it takes to eliminate COVID-19, however, the longer potentially life-saving treatments will be delayed.
Another endoscopic procedure that can be used to screen for colorectal cancers is a flexible sigmoidoscopy. A colonoscopy is generally recommended for cancer detection because it explores the entire colon and polyps can be removed during the procedure, but a flexible sigmoidoscopy takes less time to perform and general anesthesia may not be necessary. According to your personal needs, preferences, and risk factors, a flexible sigmoidoscopy may be the right choice for you to detect colorectal cancer.
An upper endoscopy (also called an upper GI, an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or an EGD) is an endoscopic evaluation of the upper portion of the digestive tract, which consists of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first portion of the small intestine). An upper endoscopy can be performed to identify a wide variety of digestive issues, including investigating abnormalities in the upper gastrointestinal tract that may indicate cancer. During this procedure, a biopsy can be taken from irregular-looking areas and sent to the lab for further testing and potential diagnosis of esophageal or stomach cancers.
We’ve determined that cancer detection is absolutely important, but is it important enough to risk possibly getting COVID-19 in the process? Experts say that if a medical facility is following the Center for Disease Control’s COVID guidelines, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is greatly reduced. Digestive Health Centers already voluntarily adhere to the standards put forth by Medicare and the Ambulatory Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), and during this pandemic, they are also going the extra mile to follow the recommendations of the CDC and World Health Organizations concerning COVID-19.
Digestive Health Centers Takes Your Safety Serious
We are taking every precaution to ensure your safety, so please don’t put off cancer detection any longer. Early detection leads to early treatment, which leads to better chances that you can live a long, healthy life. Contact one of our Digestive Health Centers today to schedule your endoscopic cancer screening today!