HEALTH

Pandemic-delayed cancer screenings mean increased rates of colon cancer

Mar 2, 2022, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:07 pm
Intermountain Healthcare facilities upgrade landscaping...
Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on March 2, 2022. Photo credit: Paul Nelson/KSL NewsRadio.

MURRAY, Utah – Doctors with Intermountain Healthcare are seeing a troubling rise in the number of patients showing signs of colon cancer. They say people delayed screenings during the pandemic, and they’re calling on Utahns to come back for regular testing. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, doctors say colon cancer screenings have dropped by roughly 50%. Oncologist Dr. Mark Lewis said people may have been hesitant to get screened during the pandemic, or they may just be uncomfortable with the procedure. 

This drop in screenings may be connected to a 15% rise in the number of patients coming into his office with symptoms of stage 3-colon cancer.

“The cancer is spreading outside of the bowel and being passed in the lymph nodes,” said Lewis. “Almost inevitably, in those cases, I’m at least going to recommend chemotherapy.”

Lewis believes a lot of these cases could have been prevented if patients were screened earlier. He said this type of cancer is highly preventable if doctors find polyps early enough and remove them before they become cancerous.

“We think because screening has been less common, I’m actually seeing people at later and later stages,” Lewis said.

Doctors say the early symptoms of colon cancer may be hard to spot. They suggest people take a look at the shape of their stool to see if it’s becoming more narrow because of blockages in the colon. Also, if someone has stomach pain and is losing weight without dieting, they should be checked right away.

Dr. Nathan Merriman said some patients are coming into his office saying they’ve had blood in their stool for several months, but they assumed it would eventually go away.

“The assumption pops up that, ‘Oh, it could be hemorrhoids. It’s probably just hemorrhoids’,” Merriman said.

Doctors used to recommend yearly checkups for people over the age of 50 with normal health risks, but Merriman said that age was recently lowered to 45. He also said people need to have frank discussions with their families about any history of cancer.

“It’s really important to talk to family members about patterns of illness and disease and medical problems to understand what we’re at risk for.”

Related stories

Today’s Top Stories

Health

Rabies in bats....
Waverly Golden

Utah health officials confirm three cases of rabies in bats

Three cases of rabies in bats have been confirmed in Utah. In each case, pets or humans were exposed and received treatment.
2 days ago
A Rite Aid logo is displayed on its store...
HALELUYA HADERO, AP Reporter

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Retailers limiting purchases is standard practice that helps retailers prevent stockpiling and reselling at higher prices.
2 days ago
CDC reports monkeypox cases....
Waverly Golden

CDC confirms five monkeypox cases in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, confirmed a total of five monkeypox cases in Utah Wednesday morning. According to the Utah Department of Health, four of the cases are located in Salt Lake County and one in Utah County. On Tuesday, the total number of cases statewide was […]
3 days ago
A crowd gathers in front of the Utah State Capitol on Friday, June 24, 2022, to protest the U.S. Su...
Becky Bruce

Different abortion law now in effect in Utah

A different abortion law is now in effect in Utah, and it bans abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. However, there are several exceptions to this law.
4 days ago
Rising temperatures across the country are putting the homeless at risk of heat-related death. Many...
Waverly Golden, Aimee Cobabe

Heat waves bring concerns for heat-related illnesses and the homeless population

Record-breaking heat waves have caused an abundance of heat-related deaths among the homeless.
4 days ago
IV bags hang in a room. Intermountain healthcare conducted a study on IV fluid....
Samantha Herrera

Intermountain Healthcare study finds “better” IV fluid treatment

Researchers with Intermountain Healthcare conducted a 15-month-long study to learn the effects of using an alternative IV fluid for patients.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Pandemic-delayed cancer screenings mean increased rates of colon cancer