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People put off colon cancer screenings during the pandemic

Doctors say it's one of the most preventable but least prevented forms of cancer.

MIFFLINBURG, Pa. — If you've been slacking on screenings for things like colon cancer, you're not alone. Experts say too many people put off the often-dreaded colonoscopy during the pandemic. According to this study, the number of diagnoses dropped 40% in one year.

Dr. Shawn McGlaughlin is a primary care doctor with Evangelical Hospital; his office is in Mifflinburg.

He's been working to get his patients back into the habit of getting screened for colon cancer every few years.

Not surprisingly, most people aren't eagerly running to the doctor to get the procedure.

But Dr. McGlaughlin wants his patients to know there are other options. You can now do an at-home screening test. He hopes more people might be inclined to get screened if they're aware of that.

"Colon cancer, if caught in the early stages, very, very treatable, very significant long-term survivability. It's just unfortunate that if you don't catch it early, there are obvious complications and impact on life expectancies."

But convincing people to get screened remains a challenge.

"It still becomes a discussion that we have to have, and different people have different reasons for not doing it. But the non-invasive home ones are seemingly so simple. A lot of patients [say], 'I don't want to know what I don't know; I don't want to deal with my own feces,' for lack of a better word. It's a challenge sometimes to get them to even do those, let alone the invasive colonoscopy."

Dr. McGlaughlin says we're seeing rising rates of colon cancer nationwide among younger adults. He points to obesity as a driving factor.

The recommended age for screening dropped from 50 to 45 last year by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

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