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Doctor Warns of Cancer Scare You Need to Know About

Falling behind on this type of screening due to the coronavirus pandemic could be a fatal move.

According to a research letter published this month, due to people putting off their yearly health screenings, there has been a sharp decline in newly identified cases of six common cancer types. One of them? Colorectal cancer, which dropped nearly 50% between the months of March 1 to April 18. While putting off these routine screenings may seem like a safer option than walking into your doctor's office, one Yale doctor warns the result could be deadly. 

"Results Can Be Devastating"

While infections were peaking in the spring, many people were forced to cancel their annual screenings. However, now that the virus is leveling off in many parts of the country, it is time for everyone to play catch up… or else… warns Xavier Llor, MD, Ph.D., a Yale Medicine gastroenterologist, who is the director of Yale Cancer Center's Smilow Screening & Prevention Program.

As a result of the pandemic, screening procedures have been reduced by more than 90%, explains Dr. Llor. And, if people don't make their screenings a priority, "results can be devastating in terms of new cancers and cancer-related deaths," he explains to Eat This, Not That! Health. While some states are still battling high infection rates, others, such as Connecticut, have managed to control the virus. If you live in a state where infection levels are low, you should make an appointment as soon as possible, as things can rapidly turn in the other direction. 

"Every community should assess their capabilities and current infection levels and develop a strategy that takes all into account yet it continues safely screening for colorectal cancer," he explains. "In Connecticut we now have the capacity and safety in our medical centers to offer screening tests, including colonoscopies." Even if you live in a state where the infection rate is high and hospitals are strained, he points out it is likely that "stool-based tests should be offered."

"We Need to Move Swiftly"

What will happen if you put off your colonoscopy? In a recent editorial published in Science, National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Dr. Norman Sharpless warned that putting these types of screenings on the backburner could be deadly—to the tune of 10,000 excess deaths in the next ten years from colorectal and breast cancer alone. 

"We need to move swiftly in order to minimize this devastating impact," urges Dr. Llor. 

As for yourself, get the tests you need if it's safe in your neighborhood, and do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask up, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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