Benjamin Levy, MD, on Colon Cancer Screening During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The board-certified gastroenterologist discussed the lack of screenings being conducted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how many physicians have tried to circumvent this issue.

As of June 16, the number of screening volumes for breast, colon, and cervical cancer was 29%, 36%, and 35% lower than their pre-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) levels, respectively, according to a data analysis conducted by Epic Health Research Network.

Moreover, between March 15 and June 16, 285,000 breast, 95,000 colon, and 40,000 cervical cancer exams were found to have been missed, which altogether represent deficits of 63%, 64%, and 67% relative to the number of screenings that would normally be expected based on the historical average.

In an interview with CancerNetwork®, Benjamin Levy, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist and division head of Gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, and Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago, discussed the implications of this decrease in screening volumes specifically for patients with colon cancer.

“Before the pandemic there wasn’t a playbook for this, so we’ve developed several strategies to make it a lot safer for patients to get their colon cancer screening,” Levy explained, “[However], there are a lot of patients who don’t want to get, and we’re seeing this, they don’t even want to come in to get COVID-19 testing because they feel like it could put them at risk; they don’t want to have any in-person contact with the healthcare system.”

Levy indicated that platforms like various telemedicine platforms that have been developed in light of the pandemic have aided physicians in treating patients remotely. Additionally, colon cancer screening tests that can be performed at home have helped to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on this patient population.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic especially, we have seen a lot of primary care doctors turn to this, because there’s no way to get their patients screened and, as you can imagine, a lot of primary care doctors, they want to close the loop and make sure that all these patients are taken care of,” said Levy.

This segment comes from the CancerNetwork® portion of the MJH Life Sciences National Broadcast, airing daily on all MJH Life Sciences channels.


EHRN. Delayed Cancer Screenings – A Second Look. EHRN website. Published July 17, 2020. Accessed July 20, 2020.