It is a well-established fact that early detection of colorectal cancer dramatically increases the odds of survival. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic kept many people from undergoing planned colorectal cancer screening exams in 2020.
During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March, global telehealth provider GenieMD and its medical group encourage all eligible adults to take advantage of new technologies that permit reliable at-home colorectal cancer screening exams.
In 2020, there were an estimated 104,610 new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States, and approximately 53,000 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. While predominantly affecting adults over the age of 50, growing numbers of younger people are being diagnosed. Those diagnosed with localized disease have a 90% five-year survival rate. But that number declines to just 14% for those who are diagnosed after the disease has significantly spread.
“Colorectal cancer is the number two cause of cancer death in the United States, trailing only lung; but it’s preventable,” said GenieMD medical group physician David Ross, MD. “Colon cancer grows from a precancerous polyp over time, so if precancerous polyps are detected and removed, colon cancer cannot develop.”
Colonoscopy, an in-person procedure that permits a physician to visualize the colon and remove polyps using an endoscope, is the gold standard for colon cancer screening. However, it requires a laxative preparation, a day off from work, and a visit to the hospital or surgery center, which many patients are hesitant to do. Dr. Ross notes that next generation at-home tests are highly accurate and may be an excellent substitute for any patient who is hesitant about having a colonoscopy.
Dr. Ross recommends the Cologuard at-home screening test for individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer. That includes those over the age of 45 who do not have a first degree relative or a personal history of colorectal cancer. It is not recommended for people who have had pre-cancerous polyps in the past; they are considered to be at higher than average risk.
“Cologuard involves an easy-to-use stool test at home,” said Dr. Ross. “A negative test predicts that there are no significant polyps or tumors.” After a negative Cologuard test, patients should be re-screened in three years. A positive Cologuard finding does not mean that the patient has colorectal cancer; it simply indicates that a colonoscopy is necessary as a follow-up procedure.
GenieMD medical group physicians are licensed in all states across the US and are able to prescribe the most appropriate colorectal cancer screening test, either an in-person colonoscopy or at-home test, for each patient, depending upon underlying risk factors, personal and family history.