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Pandemic no reason to skip medical exams

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 1:09 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Last October, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the recommended age for colorectal cancer screenings from 50 to 45.

Though we’re in the midst of a pandemic, one doctor warns you shouldn’t put off this important screening.

Doctor Jay Popp is the medical director of AMSURG, a leading colonoscopy provider. He said in a typical year about 19-million Americans get a colonoscopy.

But 2020 was anything but typical.

“Close to 200,000 colonoscopies had been missed,” said Dr. Popp.” And if you just look at what the likely occurrence of cancer would’ve been, we missed upward of 850 cancers.”

Popp said just as importantly, they’ve missed patients with polyps, which can be malignant or precancerous.

“That’s the unique thing about colon cancer, it’s the only cancer we know of that starts as a benign growth,” he said.

But over time, it can worsen, which is why its important to catch early. Stages One and Two often are asymptomatic.

“It’s not only something that can be detected early, but can be prevented,” said Dr. Popp. “You remove the polyp with the cancer, no evidence of spread, you’re good to go.”

And that early stage has about a 90% five-year survival rate.

So Popp said while you’re busy social distancing and hand washing, don’t forget to take care of yourself in other ways.

“Colonoscopies, mammograms, all those things that are preventive. Or early detection. It’s a major, major problem for us.”

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