HOUSTON – Diagnoses for colon cancer went down 46% in March and April this year.
While fewer people getting a cancer diagnosis is typically a good thing, the sudden decrease is another concern for doctors brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Terah Isaacson, a Colon and Rectal surgeon, said colorectal screenings have gone down recently, probably because people are making fewer visits to doctors during the pandemic.
Looking at the newly identified cancers from March to April, the breast and colorectal patients were cut in half.
The Harris County Medical Society said the decrease may lead to a surge in advanced stage cancers and poorer clinical outcomes.
“I would say the concern is still there. Patients are still concerned when they have those symptoms. It’s just the screenings of people who don’t have the symptoms are down. So, that’s the concern, you may wait until you have the symptoms in order to present and that of course makes your treatment and outcome worse,” Isaacson said.
The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman can also serve as a reminder that race can play a factor in this disease, no matter how young a person is, Isaacson said.
“In general, African Americans have a risk that’s about twice that of the remainder of the population,” Isaacson said. “We’ve seen patients in their 20s, 30s, 40s, definitely.”
She said while cancer screenings are supposed to be covered by insurance, sometimes the way insurance companies interpret codes and billing can leave the patient with a large payment.
Talk to your doctor. Talk to your insurance company to make sure you’re getting covered.
If that doesn’t work, see if your doctor can give you a discount if you pay them in cash.
While the recommended age to be screened has dropped from 50 for most patients to 45, Isaacson said many insurance companies still deny payment before 50-years-old. She suggests making formal complaints to the Texas Department of Insurance to get your screening covered.