DENVER (CBS4) – When the coronavirus pandemic delayed non-urgent medical care, colonoscopies came to a standstill for months. Now, physicians are concerned that patients who are due to be screened won’t.
A Denver father of three, diagnosed with colon cancer during the pandemic, is now urging people not to put off a screening that can be lifesaving.
“I had never really had any health issues,” said Jason Zachary.
The 48-year-old husband and father of three boys was concerned when he had stomach discomfort back in mid-March.
“I wouldn’t call it a pain, but just knew something was different,” he told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
It was the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many doctors’ offices closed. At his wife, Jenny’s, urging, Jason turned to telehealth.
“For me that was the key,” Jason said choking back tears.
That physician recommended a CT scan which showed a mass in Jason’s colon and a spot on his lung. A colonoscopy and biopsy determined it was colon cancer.
“Your biggest worries are your family,” said Jason.
In early June, Jason spent three and a half days at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. Dr. Warren Strutt was his colorectal surgeon.
“We were able to get it all out,” Strutt said. “Jason did all the right things.”
Strutt now worries others won’t. He fears some people, age 50 to 75, won’t get a recommended colonoscopy because they lost their job and their health insurance. He thinks others may delay the screening because they’re afraid of getting the coronavirus in a medical facility.
“I think it’s safer to be in a hospital than it is, sometimes, being outside,” said Strutt.
And Strutt warned detecting colorectal cancer early is critical.
“It’s treatable, it’s curable and with colonoscopies it’s actually preventable,” he said.
Jason has 6 months of chemotherapy ahead of him, but his focus is on the future.
“That I’ll have a healthy, long life and be able to see my boys grow up,” said the emotional dad.