Experts: Colon cancer screenings fell 86% as pandemic began
MILWAUKEE - Doctors say delaying health care, such as cancer screenings, is another unintended consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. The Epic Health Research Network estimates colon cancer screenings fell 86% through the first few months of the pandemic.
Health care providers say that's particularly troubling for colon cancer. Over the last 10 to 15 years, colorectal cancer rates for young adults between 20 and 49 years are going up.
Alexiss Uchytil, 34, of Menomonee Falls, is a colon cancer survivor because she told her doctor that something just didn't feel right when a severe loss of appetite, nausea and weight loss pushed her to go to the doctor.
"I kind of ignored the signs," said Uchytil. "I always thought I would feel better, and then I'd feel better for a day and forget that I didn't feel good for a while."
The news came on Oct. 16, 2018 when Uchytil was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
"You start self-doubting yourself, too," said Uchytil. "You know, I could've went to the doctor when... I could've done this different What caused it? Why?"
Uchytil received chemotherapy and radiation before surgery at Froedtert Hospital to remove the tumor.
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Doctor Carrie Peterson noted that at 32 years old, Uchytil wasn't eligible for a standard colonoscopy screening. The tumor was only found because she said something.
"So if she hadn't gone to see her doctor about the symptoms she was having, the weight loss and the nausea, we wouldn't have found this until this it was much too late," said Dr. Peterson.
But the treatment and subsequent surgery to restore normal bowel function have kept Uchytil on the path to the life she wants to live with gratitude for both her doctors and her own intuition.
"Don't doubt the little tiny voice in your brain that says, you know, 'Something is wrong,'" said Uchytil.
Dr. Peterson says the delay of care problem is not unique to cancer screenings. She encourages patients to speak up to their doctors if something feels off as the sooner an issue is detected the better chance they have to help.