The best in cancer care, even during challenging times

FLINT — Most types of cancers have their own awareness month throughout the year and some get plenty of attention, like Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The question is, are men and women acting on the plea to get those screenings for breast, colon and lung cancers, just to name a few?

Across the country, and right here in mid- Michigan, patients continue to delay, and in some cases avoid, medical care and routine life-saving screenings because of COVID-19. Physicians at McLaren Flint and Karmanos Cancer Institute encourage patients to keep their cancer screening appointments. If you are overdue for a preventative screening, see how easy it is to get it scheduled at karmanos.org/flintcancerscreening.

“As a physician I cannot stress enough the importance of early detection and how key it is to breast cancer survival,” said Ashley Richardson, DO, a breast surgical oncologist at McLaren Flint. “Survival outcomes depend largely on the cancer stage at diagnosis. For breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent for tumors located within the breast. This rate drops sharply to 27 percent once the cancer has metastasized to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, or bones. This past year has been like no other in our lifetime, and as a physician I feel compelled to do my part to encourage patients not to neglect their health. Measures are in place to provide safe care.”

It may come as a surprise to many people to find out lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. If you are a smoker, it is not too late to decrease your chances of getting lung cancer by quitting. However, if you have already quit, you may still be at risk of developing this disease. For both smokers and former smokers, physicians recommend having a low-dose lung cancer screening every year.

“Research shows the low-dose CT scan can be life saving for patients,” said M. Anas Moughrabieh, MD, board-certified pulmonologist at McLaren Flint. “Survival in people with lung cancer varies depending on the stage of the cancer. Statistics show the number of lung cancer deaths continue to drop due to the advances in early detection and treatment.”

When it comes to colorectal cancer, the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society show both good and bad news. Colorectal cancer death rates declined 53 percent from 1970 to 2016 among men and women because of increased screening and improvements in treatment. However, in adults younger than age 55, new cases of colorectal cancer have increased almost two percent per year since the mid-1990s.

“Earlier stages of colorectal cancer are more likely to require surgery alone to cure the disease while later stages may require additional treatment with radiation, such as rectal cancer, and chemotherapy,” said Tolutope Oyasiji, MD, MRCSI, MHSA, FACS, surgical oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. “The disease may not be curable when the patient presents at a very late stage – only palliative treatment may be available in these cases. So, time is of the essence. Prompt diagnosis is crucial to cure and better outcomes.”

Patients have been fighting cancer throughout the pandemic and receiving the very best in care, including safe care. McLaren Flint, its offsite locations, and Karmanos are continuing to follow strict safety standards, including staff wearing proper personal protective equipment, patients being screened for COVID-19 before coming in for their appointments, and staff cleaning of high-touch areas. Waiting rooms also have social distancing measures in place.

For information on screening recommendations for breast, colorectal, lung and other cancers, or to reach out to one of our cancer experts, visit karmanos.org/flintcancerscreening. For information on our continued Safe Care initiatives visit mclaren.org/safecare.