The sports world is mourning the loss of World Series champion pitcher, Jim Corsi (60), who passed away in early January after a battle with liver and colon cancer. When announcing his terminal cancer diagnosis in an interview with WBZ-TV this past November, he admitted that his biggest regret was not getting screened early enough. He says “I made a mistake when I was younger by not getting a colonoscopy… I was a professional athlete and thought I was invincible, strong. You’re not. Cancer is not prejudice to anybody. That’s my message. Don’t wait.”
Unfortunately, Jim Corsi’s case is not an anomaly in the world of cancer. “All too often we meet patients who held off on talking to their physician when symptoms appear or following the recommendations for cancer screenings. This has been even more apparent during the pandemic.” says Mike Diaz, MD, president and managing physician of Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute. “We cannot stress enough, the importance of screenings for early cancer detection.”
In a study published in the JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics journal and in partnership with the Community Oncology Alliance (COA), oncologists documented how screenings were down significantly year-over-year following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, a larger number of late-stage cancer diagnoses were occurring often leading to rigorous treatment with strenuous side-effects, and sadly, in some cases, death.
Early detection and diagnosis often lead to less extensive treatment, fewer side effects and long-term health issues, and can ultimately save lives. In the case of colon cancer, this is especially true since it is one of the most preventable cancers as pre-cancerous and cancerous polyps can be removed during the colonoscopy.
The American Cancer Society now recommends regular screenings for colorectal cancer beginning at age 45 which can reduce the incidence by 50%. Certain individuals may want to be screened before 45 if considered high risk. Those with family history, confirmed or suspected colorectal cancer syndrome, personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, prior radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvic area should consult their primary care physician and consider early screening, as all are factors that may increase your risk for colon cancer. Obesity is another high-risk factor for colon cancer which can be prevented maintaining a healthy weight and being active on a daily basis.
There are some common colorectal cancer warning signs that also warrant further exploration. If you develop any of the following, we recommend immediately speaking with your doctor:
- a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool lasting for longer than a few days
- rectal bleeding with bright red blood in the stool
- abdominal cramping
- unintended weight loss
Recognizing the risk factors for hereditary cancers can be also be lifesaving. Some individuals opt to undergo genetic testing to better understand their risk for developing certain cancers, including colon cancer. Once revealed, the results can encourage preventative measures. Using the latest technology, Florida Cancer Specialists is one of the community oncology centers in Florida offering genetic testing to individuals who are considered high-risk.
When it’s time for a screening, you can call 855-53-SCREEN or visit TimetoScreen.org to find a location convenient to you. Like Jim Corsi said, “don’t wait.”