The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in countless ways. One particularly alarming consequence of the coronavirus has been the recent shift in how Americans seek healthcare services. Before the virus struck, getting routine, emergency or preventative treatment was a way of life that most of us took for granted. Now, fear of infection has caused many people to delay the care essential to being healthy in the present—and staying healthy in the future.
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Fear of exposing oneself to COVID-19 at the doctor's office or while seeking outpatient services at the hospital is understandable but unwarranted. Recommendations made early in the pandemic to delay screenings are now over — and any continued delay in care could result in poor health outcomes.
Because no one knows for sure how long COVID-19 will continue to affect our lives. Delaying medical care until the pandemic is over is not the safest option, according to Doylestown Health Gastroenterology physician Dr. Nasir Akhtar, DO. He urges people to talk with their doctor about their individual medical needs during these uncertain times, especially if they have concerns such as blood in the stool, changes in stool caliber, abdominal or rectal pain, or a history of colon or rectal cancer. He emphasizes that "an office visit is a conversation, not a procedure," and that patients should not hesitate to call their physician if they have any of these symptoms.
What is a Colonoscopy?
Dr. Akhtar details that a colonoscopy is a "colorectal cancer screening test that can detect polyps and cancers. If a polyp is found, it is removed to try to prevent it from becoming more serious. Screening for and removal of polyps reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer. If cancer is found, it may be treated, hopefully at an earlier stage." He goes on to explain that "early detection of cancers that are already present in the colon increases the chance of successful treatment and decreases the chance of dying as a result of the cancer."
Colonoscopy: How Doylestown Health Keeps You Safe
If your doctor recommends a colonoscopy, you can be assured that Doylestown Health follows all safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for healthcare facilities1 as well as protocols established as late as last month by the Gastroenterological Societies. Precautions include:
In the gastroenterology office
- All patients are pre-screened for high-risk exposure or symptoms of COVID-19
- Patients and staff are required to wear masks
- Few patients are in the office at any one time and are kept socially distanced from each other
- Thorough hand hygiene is required for patients and staff
- Staff wears N-95 masks, double gloves and eye protection
- Movement of personnel in and out of exam rooms is kept to a minimum
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces and endoscopic equipment is required
During the colonoscopy procedure
- Keeping the same team of doctors, anesthesiologists and technicians throughout the day and minimizing the number of personnel allowed in the procedure room. This reduces the risk of exposure for patients and staff
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Our caring, compassionate gastroenterologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the digestive system. Using advanced screening tools, state-of-the-art treatments and innovative technology, our gastroenterology team delivers comprehensive care for conditions of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. The Open Access Colonoscopy Program allows healthy patients the convenience of scheduling a screening colonoscopy without an initial office visit.