Local Gastroenterologists Urge Screening


​March is recognized nationally as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. That’s something that Dana Stiner, MD​, and James Schoenecker, MD, want our community to take seriously. They know that awareness can lead to colon cancer screening, which can save lives.

Of the cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer in the colon or rectum) is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. However, it is largely preventable.

According to Dr. Stiner, of PeaceHealth Medical Group​, and Dr. Schoenecker from Northwest Gastroenterology in Bellingham, screening via colonoscopy can detect cancer early enough for treatment to be successful. According to a 2012 Associated Press report, removing polyps found during a colonoscopy reduces the risk of colon cancer death.

Colonoscopies are recommended at least once every ten years, beginning at age 50. Other screenings include a high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, which can be done yearly, and a procedure to look inside the rectum and lower colon for polyps, abnormalities or cancer using a flexible scope, every five years. A gastroenterologist can advise which screening is most appropriate for each individual.

The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age; more than 90% of cases occur in people aged 50 and older. That’s why Dr. Stiner and Dr. Schoenecker recommend that men and women between ages 50 and 75 be screened. 

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for a fact sheet on colon cancer screening or contact your primary care provider.