Know your risk: A colorectal cancer screening can help save your life

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the U.S., but early screening can lead to the best outcomes.

Father carrying daughter and smiling

Colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon and rectum – is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., affecting both men and women. The good news is that colorectal cancer can be preventable and, if detected early, is more likely to be cured.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer risk increases with age. About 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years or older. Some people may have higher risk depending on their personal or family history. Racial/ethnic disparities can also increase risk of colorectal cancer. For example, compared to white Americans, African Americans have a 20% higher incidence of colorectal cancer.

Prevent colorectal cancer with screening

routine screening is the most effective way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The CDC has recently updated the recommended age for a first screening to 45. Screenings can detect cancer early before symptoms are present. Some screenings can even prevent colorectal cancer by removing polyps (precancerous growths) before they become cancerous.

There are different types of tests used for colorectal cancer screening. Some tests, such as stool tests, can be done at home by collecting a sample and sending it to a lab by mail. Stool tests are recommended on an annual basis to detect signs of cancer in a timely manner. A colonoscopy, widely considered the gold standard, is a medical procedure performed by a doctor. The main benefits of colonoscopy are twofold: First, if the results come back clear, it means that you won’t need to have the procedure again for another 10 years. Then, even if your doctor discovers findings during the screening, such as presence of polyps, they may be able to remove them during the procedure. The best way to find out more about testing options, is to discuss with your primary care doctor.

Is colorectal cancer screening covered?

As a preventive health service, the costs of your colorectal cancer screening are generally covered at no additional cost to you for most plans, when care is provided through a network provider. However, there may be a copay or coinsurance payments if a member:

  • Your plan benefits require a copay or coinsurance for this service,
  • You use an out-of-network provider,
  • You are under the age of 45, or
  • You got screened because of signs and symptoms (called a diagnostic screening) or more often than the recommended time frame between tests.

For more information about coverage, check your plan’s Explanation of Benefits or Evidence of Coverage.

Want to order a home test kit?

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Page last updated: 08/29/2022

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