Doylestown and St. Mary’s doctors urge patients to get screened for cancer


Alison Pluck believes people are in the right place at the right time.

This was the case when she postponed a colonoscopy she had scheduled during the COVID crisis. A woman she didn’t know heard her cancel the date and politely told her that she should postpone it. The woman herself had a colonoscopy which revealed colon cancer

Pluck took the advice.

It’s not a topic she likes to talk about, but thinks she should. A mother of four, she has had symptoms of bleeding hemorrhoids for a long time, so she figured she’d better get her colon checked when she was 50. Then COVID struck. She made an appointment for the procedure in August 2020 but canceled it as she was recovering from a fall and had summer activities with her family. Following the advice of the other woman, she postponed it until last October.

Following:Despite protests, Doylestown Health, St. Mary’s and most other area hospitals require employees to be vaccinated

When Dr Hannah Do, a gastroenterologist at Doylestown Hospital, examined Pluck’s colon, she discovered a lesion. Pluck needed a sigmoidectomy to remove the lower part of his colon. At first, the tumor looked benign, but a biopsy showed it contained cancer cells. Luckily, she didn’t need any further treatment at the time, although she is now straddling health checks.

Before COVID vaccines were available, people were postponing screenings because they were afraid of catching the virus in a medical facility, Do said. “I think there was a natural fear … It’s much more dangerous not to get tested.”

One in 23 men and one in 25 women will develop colon cancer in their lifetime, she said, but detecting polyps early is incredibly effective in preventing cancer.

Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society lowered the age at which colonoscopies should start from 50 to 45 because “studies show that rates of colorectal cancer in people under 50 are increasing.” indicates ACS. “Experts have determined that screening from age 45 could help save more lives.” And people with a family history of colon cancer should even start earlier.

“Don’t be afraid of being checked out. Don’t cancel appointments because they are interfering with your life. It is important to follow up. They will save your life,” Pluck said. “Listen to your gut – literally. If something in you tells you to do it, do it.”

Dr Donna Angotti is a breast surgeon at Doylestown Hospital.

Do agrees, as does Dr Donna Angotti, also a breast surgeon at the hospital. The two doctors join Pluck and the Pennsylvania Department of Health in urging women and men not to postpone necessary exams and mammograms that could detect cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage.

“Most breast cancers, when caught at a smaller stage, are easier to treat and generally have better results,” Angotti said. “This is why it is so important for women to stay on track with screening programs … We have increased our hours because of the demand.”

Angotti said she recently treated a woman who postponed her annual mammogram due to the COVID crisis and when she did, a more advanced tumor was found.

The hospital offers evening and Saturday appointments at its women’s diagnostic centers, as it recognizes that many women are in the workforce and may not be able to easily travel to a meet earlier in the day.

Some other area hospitals and their doctor’s offices also offer evening hours for those who may have difficulty having a mammogram or other test during the day, Jefferson Health Abington, Holy Redeemer’s Women’s Health Care, and St. Mary Medical Center have evening appointments for mammograms and some other procedures. Jefferson Abington and The St. Mary even have Saturday hours of operation at their diagnostic centers. The Lower Bucks Hospital Community Health Center is open until 6 p.m. on weekdays.

“We know that the sooner we find cancer, the less chance there is of it growing and spreading. The new technology coupled with earlier detection is expanding the medical and surgical treatment options available to our patients, ”said Dr. Russell Reisner, surgical breast oncologist at St. Mary Medical Center. “Don’t neglect this vital part of your breast health.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health released a statement this week urging women to have mammograms as well as gynecologic exams, with cervical cancer screening as many women have postponed screenings due to the pandemic. of COVID-19.

“Throughout this month, we are wearing pink to draw attention to breast cancer awareness and honor those who have battled breast cancer,” said Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam. It is the leading cause of cancer in women in the state and the second behind lung or bronchial cancer causing cancer deaths in women.

The state noted that the United States Prevention Services Task Force recommends that women under 40 be screened if they have symptoms or are at high risk; 40-49 year olds should be screened every two years if the patient and health care professional deem it necessary, and women 50 and over should be screened every two years. “

“It is important to know that these guidelines apply if a person is at average risk for breast cancer. People should see your doctor if they are at high risk due to a family history, breast condition, or breast cancer. any other reason, ”the health ministry said. informed.

The Pennsylvania Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (PA-BCCEDP) is a free early detection program for breast and cervical cancer funded by the Department of Health through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Free services include mammograms, MRIs, Pap and HPV tests, and follow-up diagnostic tests when abnormal results are found.

“Eligibility includes low- and moderate-income women and transgender people, those who are uninsured or underinsured, and those who meet certain age requirements,” the state noted. In the past year, he has found cervical or breast cancer in 113 of the 7,000 people who used the services.

Dr Do said that when it comes to colonoscopies, preparations are now much easier.

Instead of having to drink volumes of laxative fluids to cleanse the colon so that the gastroenterologist can examine it clearly, patients can now take two doses of 12 tablets of Sutab, a new way to prepare the colon the day before. and the morning of the colonoscopy, which she says is “very tolerable”. Patients are sedated during the painless procedure.

“Nobody wants to have a colonoscopy,” she said, but “nobody thinks it could be me (who has colon cancer).”

Pluck pointed out that if there are any changes in your “daily build” or in your stool, ask your doctor about it. When she found out she needed a sigmoidectomy, she said she could have gone to any hospital, but decided to stay in Doylestown.

“I chose there because I was receiving the best care,” she said. And, she added, “don’t cancel dates because they are interfering with your life. It is important to follow up. They will save your life.”

To contact Peg Quann, send an email to [email protected]

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