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Utah doctors urge patients to get their cancer screenings

Street view of Intermountain Logan Regional Hospital

The pandemic has overloaded the healthcare system, but Intermountain Healthcare gastroenterologist Dr. Nathan Merriman said at a recent news conference that the pandemic has also been a lot for patients.

“I've seen, personally, quite a bit of hesitance in terms of patients coming in for their colonoscopy, especially screening, because I think it's just been overwhelming,” Merriman said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Merriman said they’ve seen a 50% drop in screening colonoscopies. Oncologist Dr. Mark Lewis said this decrease in screenings has consequences.

“We are finding these cancers unfortunately, a little bit later than we would like to, and that is incurring more necessity for chemotherapy,” Lewis said.

In a time where a strong immune system is important, Dr. Lewis said it’s extra important that patients avoid turning to chemotherapy. He said while making a colonoscopy appointment and prepping for it may not be fun, it could save your life.

“Thousands of Americans lose their lives every year to this disease,” Lewis said. “And almost always, if it's fatal, it's because it's at an advanced stage.”

Dr. Merriman said the Intermountain team tries their hardest to make talking about any symptoms as comfortable as possible.

“I do believe that patients are teammates in care and health,” Merriman said. “We won't know if there are symptoms going on unless they feel comfortable speaking up, and we empower them to speak up.”

Intermountain said anyone over 45 years old should schedule a screening.

Emma Feuz is a senior at Utah State University majoring in broadcast journalism with minors in sociology and political science. She grew up in Evanston, Wyoming where, just like Utah State, the sagebrush also grows. Emma found her love of writing at an early age and slowly discovered her interest in all things audio and visual throughout her years in school. She is excited to put those passions to use at UPR. When school isn't taking up her time, Emma loves longboarding, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and cleaning the sink at Angies.