Dr. Nate O’Leary is currently a second year Family Medicine resident at the Washington Health System. He was born and raised in central California. He attended Yale University, studying Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Afterwards, he enrolled in the St. George’s University School of Medicine. He enjoys spending time with his wife and new baby, as well as DYI projects and reading in his spare time.

With March being Colon Cancer Awareness month, it’s a good reminder for us to understand and recognize the importance of screening for colon cancer. Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. According to the CDC and WHO, colorectal cancer is responsible for the second-most amount of cancer related deaths worldwide. As such, the US task force for preventative medicine recommends screening in all adults from age 45-75 for early detection of colon cancer. You may ask “what options are available for screening?” Here are the available CDC recommended screenings:

1. For this test, the doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum under anesthesia. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon. How often: Every 5 years, or every 10 years with a FIT every year.

2. Colonoscopy. Arguably the most effective for detecting colon cancer with a 94% detection rate. Some studies show that receiving screening colonoscopies can reduce cancer risk by up to 42% and reduces colon cancer related deaths by 50%. How often: Every 10 years (for people who do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer).

3. Cologuard and stool-based testing.
a. The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) uses the chemical guaiac to detect blood in the stool. It is done once a year. For this test, you receive a test kit from your health care provider. At home, you use a stick or brush to obtain a small amount of stool. You return the test kit to the doctor or a lab, where the stool samples are checked for the presence of blood.
b. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool. It is also done once a year in the same way as a gFOBT.
c. The FIT-DNA test (also commonly referred to as Cologuard) combines the FIT with a test that detects altered DNA in the stool. For this test, you collect an entire bowel movement and send it to a lab, where it is checked for altered DNA and for the presence of blood. It is done once every three years.

Your family doctor can help answer any questions or concerns you have about strokes, as well as ways to prevent and limit your risk for this to occur to you. Washington Health System has an integrated interdisciplinary team to help with prevention as well as treatment, whether it is on prevention, at the time of an event, or rehabilitation afterwards. The Washington Health System is a certified stroke center, receiving the Gold Plus Award and Recognition by the American Health Association for efficient, immediate, and quality treatment of a stroke during an episode. A healthy lifestyle and advice from your family physician can help you be as healthy as you can be and learn what to look for to possibly help you or a loved one to get the care they need.