By Dr. Timothy & Melissa Quinn
Jackson Advocate Guest Writers
I remember August 28, 2020 just like it was yesterday. I was sharing with my wife Melissa and my daughter Saffron that I was preparing for a news story about the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman. My assignment was to inform the public of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer which was the cause of his death. I remember Saffron saying, “Dad, he was the Black Panther.” She then paused with a confused look and asked, “How could someone like him die?” I remember so clearly watching my daughter tell my wife, “The Black Panther was a superhero in movies and in life.”
Many people have the misconception that a person suffering from cancer will have a certain appearance that would make it obvious to others of that person’s condition. Mr. Boseman was the epitome of a physically fit man to most. His untimely death caused a lot of Americans to reevaluate this belief that you had to appear unhealthy to have an illness.
Our clinical team, as well as our partners, collaborate on many initiatives to increase healthcare awareness. One of our greatest challenges is to help dispel the myth that looking a certain way signifies whether you are healthy or sick. In our campaigns, we educate how cancer and many other chronic diseases start out asymptomatically (meaning the person does not feel or look different in any way).
We further educate Mississippians that many people develop signs and symptoms later when the cancer has had the opportunity to grow and/or spread to other parts of the body. There are far too many scenarios where I have had to inform patients that their cancer has progressed too far for a favorable prognosis (meaning that their cancer has a low probability of successful treatment and a high probability of resulting in an untimely death).
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on cancer screenings. With many patients avoiding and rescheduling doctor’s appointments for fear of coronavirus exposure, many screenings, including mammograms, prostate exams, and colon screenings, are not being scheduled.
In regards to colorectal cancer (Chadwick Boseman’s cause of death), I have found a solution that has been very effective during this pandemic. We have taken a great deal of consideration for the safety of our patients during this time. . We have been strategic in implementing the best medical service.
Some of these changes include a heavier percentage of patients who receive services via telemedicine. This allows patients to remain in the safety of their homes while receiving medical care. This is most effective when the medical encounter does not require an office visit. Some other strategic changes include dependence on home health services to collect the labs and vital signs of the patients by medical personnel with added precautionary measures. In regard to cancer screenings, the Cologuard test has been a definite asset.
Cologuard is an FDA-approved, non-invasive, at-home test and an effective and convenient screening option for adults 45 and older who are at AVERAGE risk for colorectal cancer. After a safe telemedicine appointment with a patient, I was able to have Cologuard delivered to, and picked up from, the patient’s home using the UPS service.
When using this service, the patient doesn’t have to do any preparation or miss any time from work. The test is performed according to the patient’s convenience, and the patient does not have to make any changes to their diet or medications. I explain to patients that the test detects 92% of colorectal cancers by detecting altered DNA and/or blood in stool. When asked about costs, I explain that Cologuard is accessible with more than 94% of all Cologuard patients having no out-of-pocket costs for screening.
Colorectal cancer is on the RISE in younger adults and is the second deadliest cancer in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be. The National Cancer Institute predicts that there will be 10,000 excess deaths in the U.S. over the next 10 years, which can be attributed to pandemic-related screening delays. When colon cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages (stage I and stage II), 90% of patients survive. Despite this, an estimated 53,000 Americans will die this year from colorectal cancer. There are an estimated 44 million average-risk Americans, ages 45 to 74 years, that are eligible for screening and remain unscreened. Black Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers
Please encourage screenings to include colon cancer, because WE deserve to live!