Colorectal Cancer Patients Should Not Assume that Care is Unavailable


People experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms or delays in colorectal cancer care should address these questions with their care team.

In the uncertainty of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Colon Cancer Coalition recommends that anyone currently living with symptoms of colorectal cancer and patients experiencing treatment delays should not assume that care is unavailable. If you are experiencing blood in their stool, significant unexplained weight loss, or changes in bowel habits, among other symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible and any colorectal cancer patient living with a treatment delay should advocate for yourself with your care team.

We support the action of health care facilities across the country to defer elective screening colonoscopies, not only to help deploy health care resources to those in greatest need, but also to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for patients and providers alike. As elective procedures begin to become more available, it is vitally important for individuals experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer to proactively reach out to their provider for help and to determine what care or diagnostic evaluations are appropriate. There are now many telemedicine options available to help determine how urgent your issues may be and what treatment options are appropriate.

In addition to the stress of living through a global health pandemic, the colorectal cancer patient community, like others managing cancer, is experiencing additional anxiety with delays in care and added concerns about their risk of contracting COVID-19. We encourage all cancer patients to talk with their care team about their risk and how a delay in treatment may or may not impact their care and outcomes, and to determine what care can be done through telemedicine without frequent visits to care facilities.

Questions for your health care providers

For individuals experiencing symptoms:

  • Make a record of your symptoms, including how long you have been experiencing them.
  • Write down any risk factors you have, your family history of gastrointestinal disease, etc. Make sure to have these items handy during your telemedicine appointment.
  • If a colonoscopy is unavailable to you at this time ask if an at-home stool-based test is appropriate for your symptoms.
  • Determine what the follow-up care will be should the at-home stool-based test come back with a positive result.

For current cancer patients experiencing delays in care:

  • Ask why your treatment is delayed and what risks may be associated with that delay.
  • Ask if there are alternative chemotherapy treatments that can be used in the short term that do not require treatment in an infusion center or if care is available at a facility outside of the hospital.
  • If visits to the infusion room are required, request appointments at off peak times and find out what precautions you should take in advance of the visit and while you are there. Many infusion centers are limiting visitors, find out what your treatment center’s policy is.

Colorectal cancer symptoms:

Multiple symptoms or persistent symptoms lasting more than two weeks need to be evaluated by a physician. Don’t wait to call and talk to a medical professional about your concerns.

  • Blood in your stool
  • Change in Bathroom Habits
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Persistent Cramps or Low Back Pain
  • Feeling Bloated

Patients looking for connection and support may find that in COLONTOWN, an online community of more than 100 “secret” groups (or neighborhoods) on Facebook. This community is an online home for colorectal patients, survivors, and their carepartners alike. Every neighborhood is nurtured by a Neighborhood Host (or several), themselves living the experience.

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