SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Throughout the pandemic local gastroenterologists say people have been neglecting their healthcare.
Now they’re seeing more colon cancer patients with severe conditions.
"We are seeing colon cancer is on the rise. We are seeing a two percent increase prevalence of colon cancer in women, especially between the ages of 45 and 49," said gastroenterologist Keval Shah at Marian Regional Medical Center.
Colon cancer used to be the nation's 7th leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
But that number has jumped to number 2.
“We are seeing increased incidents of colon cancer in the last 6 to 8 weeks due to people who have not been screened over the last year,” said Shah.
Doctors at Marian are also seeing some patients coming into the ER with full blown metastatic colon cancer.
This means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as lungs liver and abdomen.
Despite the pandemic, doctors hope people will come in sooner rather than later.
"Unfortunately due to COVID it’s been difficult to get patients into the office to see them in person. Initially when COVID hit and the pandemic hit, we were seeing a lot of patients by virtual visits in telemedicine," said Shah.
National efforts are underway to start colon screening at 45, instead of waiting to age 50.
The procedure is not painful, but does involve preparation that some find uncomfortable.
The alternative is much worse.
Doctors want to encourage everyone to see your primary care doctor, and starting around age 45, ask about colon cancer screening.