Responding to a drop in colorectal cancer screenings due to COVID-19, the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance (Alliance) today released colorectal cancer (CRC) screening guidance for healthcare organizations, inspiring a united front in advocating for and providing access to life-saving screening tests.
The guidance, “Reigniting Colorectal Cancer Screening as Communities Face and Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” consolidates research findings and recommendations developed by expert bodies and provides a playbook enabling advocates to work together in reigniting CRC screening efforts appropriately, safely and equally.
Americans are at risk of 18,800 estimated missed or delayed diagnoses of CRC from early March through early June due to delayed or canceled colonoscopy screening tests and patient fears about COVID-19. Delayed diagnoses could result in more than 4,500 additional CRC deaths over the next decade.
These estimates add to preexisting screening disparities in underserved populations.
“We have an urgent need to help everyone be screened for colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Rich Wender, NCCRT Chair. “Now we have the guidance needed to offer safe, accessible screening for everyone.”
The guidance provides four aligning statements to coordinate a national response to screening delays and declines, abbreviated below.
1. Despite the pandemic, CRC remains a public health priority, and we must remind the public about safe opportunities to prevent and detect colorectal polyps and cancer.
2. Colonoscopy remains safe, and identifying patients who should receive higher priority for colonoscopic screening is critical.
3. While the pandemic may limit elective screening colonoscopy in some regions, screening can be conducted safely through at-home stool-based tests.
4. Reigniting screening activities will be highly dependent upon local regulatory requirements, public health priorities, and policy change.
“We can be safe in a pandemic and continue saving lives,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Alliance. “COVID-19 demands that we find new solutions to encourage and make possible CRC screening tests for all communities. We ask that healthcare providers and organizations don’t lose sight of the risk presented by CRC in lieu of COVID-19.”
In 2020, the American Cancer Society estimates 147,950 will be diagnosed with CRC and approximately 53,200 will die, making CRC the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. when men and women are combined.
The guidance originates from an Alliance and NCCRT meeting in May that convened experts to discuss how to limit the effects of COVID-19 on CRC diagnoses.
About the Colorectal Cancer Alliance
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is a national nonprofit committed to ending colorectal cancer. More at www.ccalliance.org.
About the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, established by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997, is a national coalition dedicated to reducing the incidence of and mortality from colorectal cancer in the U.S. More at www.nccrt.org/.