Survivor urges people not to postpone cancer screenings during pandemic

Published: March 10, 2021 6:18 PM EST
Updated: March 10, 2021 10:33 PM EST

Nationally, cancer screenings dropped anywhere from 86% to 94% during the pandemic.

A woman in Fort Myers we spoke to says catching cancer early could save your life because it saved hers.

Sharon Pollock is a survivor of colon cancer, and her husband’s actions might have saved her life.

“My husband kind of got on me about doing the test this last time,” Pollock said.

That test was a screening for colon cancer.

This time, “The test results came back that I had cancer,” Pollock said.

As bad as that is, Pollock considers herself lucky. Despite the pandemic, doctors were able to schedule her surgery within a month.

“He wanted to go ahead and schedule the surgery right away because of the COVID,” Pollock said. “He didn’t know whether or not we would be able to get in, and that type of cancer, he said he didn’t want to wait.”

A year later, Pollock is cancer free, but not everyone is so fortunate.

“Generally, there’s no symptoms associated with colon cancer,” said Dr. Rebecca Ensley, a gastroenterologist. “Once people start having rectal bleeding or bowel obstruction, usually, it’s a fairly advanced process at that point, further than we would like to find it.”

Ensley says colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, and it’s the second most common cause of cancer deaths.

“The hope is that, if you stay on recommended screening interval guidelines, which are provided by your physician, that you will never develop colon cancer in your lifetime,” Ensley said “So it’s really considered a preventable cancer.”

The Affordable Care Act requires both private insurers and Medicare cover the costs of colorectal cancer screening tests, with no out-of-pocket costs for patients.

That benefit kicks in when you turn 50; although, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends you start screenings at 45.

“I was very blessed,” Pollock said.

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