Dr. Wesley Schettler is a second-year resident at the Washington Hospital family medicine program. He is from Oil City Pennsylvania. He attended Clarion University earning a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and attended the Lewis School of Medicine at Temple University for medical school. Dr. Schettler enjoys board games and spending time with other residents outside of work.
March is colorectal awareness month. Over 150,000 Americans were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2021 and almost 53,000 people died from this disease in the same year. It is extremely important that men and women undergo colon cancer screening at the direction of their family doctor or gastroenterologist.
For many years colon cancer screening was recommended by the United States preventative task force starting at 50 years old unless you had risk factors for colon cancer or strong family history. More recently they have recommended screening begin at age 45. If you have questions or concerns about this, it is recommended you speak with your family doctor. Any adult over the age of 75 should share the decision about colon cancer screening with their family doctor which means you may not need to get colonoscopies after age 75. There are a few ways to screen for colon cancer. The gold standard is colonoscopy. During this procedure a flexible scope is used to directly view your colon and any polyps found can be removed if appropriate. It does require medicine to have you asleep during the procedure and drinking a prep solution the night before testing. Your family doctor can explain the procedure to you if you have questions. If you would have a negative colonoscopy, it is likely that you will need another one in 10 years or other recommendations based on what they see during the test. Other options are available, and you can discuss them with your family doctor.
The fecal immunochemical test commonly referred to as the FIT is a test that you perform at home. It is as simple as swabbing your stool at home and mailing the specimen to the lab. The directions are all included, and these can be provided by your family physician. This test looks for microscopic blood particles in your stool and if positive, your doctor would likely recommend following up with a colonoscopy. If negative, you will need to repeat an FIT each year. Sometimes these noninvasive tests are not available to all patients and your family physician can tell you if you are a candidate for this type of testing.
Colon cancer can lie undetected in persons and causes a significant amount of death each year in the United States. It is important that you discuss colon cancer screening, and your family doctor can help decide which test is best for you!