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Age 45 or Older? Screen for Colorectal Cancer With TRICARE

Image of Age 45 or Older? Screen for Colorectal Cancer With TRICARE. Cmdr. Candida Ferguson, a general surgeon at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, talks with a patient about colorectal cancer screening. Regular screening beginning at age 45 is a key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early. Talk with your doctor about which test is right for you. (U.S. Navy photo by Deidre Smith)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States—and it’s on the rise among people under age 50, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In 2022, colorectal cancer screening guidelines changed. Now, anyone at average risk for colorectal cancer should start regular screenings at age 45.

“Getting regular screenings is the best way to catch colorectal cancer early, when it’s most treatable,” said Jeannine Pickrell, RN, director of Disease Management & Population Health at the Defense Health Agency. “Since colorectal cancer rates in younger people are increasing, it’s important to start getting screened as soon as you turn 45.”

Getting screened is easy, and TRICARE covers several options for colorectal cancer exams. Here’s what to know about these routine screenings.

Know your risk level

The recommendation to start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45 applies to anyone at average risk for colorectal cancer. If you’re at increased risk, you may need to start screenings before you turn 45. You may be at increased risk if you have:
• Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
• Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
• Certain genetic syndromes related to colorectal cancer

If you believe you’re at increased risk for colorectal cancer, ask your provider when to start getting screened and which exams are right for you.

Types of screenings

There are a few different types of colorectal cancer exams. These include colonoscopies and stool tests. You can even take some stool tests at home, by using a kit to collect a stool sample and sending it back to a lab.

Here are some of the common tests TRICARE covers for people at average risk, starting at age 45:

  • Fecal occult blood testing: covered once every 12 months
  • Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT): covered once every 12 months
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: covered once every 5 years
  • CT colonoscopies: covered once every 5 years
  • Conventional colonoscopies: covered once every 10 years

If your test result is positive or abnormal on some tests (like FIT or a CT colonoscopy), you may need to get a conventional colonoscopy to be sure of your results.

Not sure which exam is right for you? Ask your provider at your next visit or during a Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Exam.

Screening costs

Your screening costs will depend on the type of screening you get and if it occurs at a preventive care visit or specialty care outpatient visit. Check out the TRICARE Compare Cost Tool to find out your costs for these visits.

Know the signs and symptoms

Colorectal cancer screenings are meant to catch cancer before you start showing signs or symptoms. If you’re having any of these symptoms of colorectal cancer, see your provider right away:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool

With many options, getting screened for colorectal cancer is easier than ever. If you’re 45 or older, don’t delay your regular exam. Learn more about other routine cancer screenings you should get based on your age, sex, and risk factors.

Would you like the latest TRICARE news sent to you by email? Visit TRICARE Subscriptions, and create your personalized profile to get benefit updates, news, and more.

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Last Updated: May 06, 2024
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