BALTIMORE (WMAR) — It’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and one of the best ways to prevent or detect this cancer early is a colonoscopy. With the advent of telehealth, MedStar Health has made it easier to get one.
It was last summer, Sara Meadows Shawe felt like something was off.
“My body started to feel a certain way and I thought, that’s not how it usually feels. I think I should do something,” said Shawe.
She learned that, being 45 year old, it was now recommended that she get a colonoscopy.
“So I decided to pull the trigger,” said Shawe.
But the decision seemed a lot easier than actually getting the procedure done.
“I tried to call a couple doctors and they say, ‘Well you’re going to make an initial consultation appointment’,” said Shawe.
Shawe would have had to wait about six weeks to get the colonoscopy and it just wasn’t feasible as a mother of two young kids.
“I did not have the luxury of being able to take off so much time to get a consultation then another appointment for the colonoscopy,” said Shawe. “And I just thought that was crazy.”
But then a friend told her about MedStar Health’s new expedited screening process and she got her colonoscopy a week later.
“It was fantastic that I could just get in and out same day one appointment and have it done,” said Shawe.
MedStar Health is now using telehealth for the initial consult for otherwise healthy patients, instead of having them come in person to talk about the colonoscopy and then set it up.
“So if we eliminate that barrier and just say, ‘Hey just come do it,’ I think you’re more likely to say, ‘Okay well I can skip a step, they made it easier for me’,” said Dr. David E. Stein, the Regional Chief of Surgery for MedStar Health Baltimore.
Dr. Stein said more people are reaching out because they are hearing by word of mouth how much easier it is.
“Just recently we did a colonoscopy on an individual and we detected two large polyps, it’s like, ‘Wow I had no symptoms, I felt great. Why did I have those polyps?” Screenings are very important,” said Stein.
He said making it easier likely brought that patient in and prevented colon cancer.
“Often it is detected later than it has to be and colonoscopy screenings or any screening methodology will prevent it from occurring. It’s the third most common cancer in men and women, second leading cause of cancer death and we can prevent it with a test? No brainer,” said Stein.
For Shawe, the new system also meant having an answer as quickly as possible which was a huge relief.
“You know how it is in your brain, you start thinking the worst. You’re like it’s gonna be bad. Now thankfully I have a clean colon so that’s fantastic,” said Shawe.
She said if you’re 45 years or older, or it’s been 10 years since your last colonoscopy, what are you waiting for?
“It’s not a big deal and if you can get in and out in one day, you should do it,” said Shawe.
It’s also recommended that if you have any symptoms, including abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or blood in the stool, that you reach out to your doctor to talk about getting screened.
There is also a stool DNA testing kit you can get to test for polyps.
“The DNA from colon cancer and colon polyps gets shed and it’s also a very accurate test so people who don’t want to leave their house COVID era, this is have actually increased in popularity,” said Stein.