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Catch colon cancer early through screening

GEHA | March 14, 2022

It’s now recommended to start regular screenings at 45.

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of death from cancer in the United States. It is also the third most common type of non-skin cancer diagnosed in both men and women.

In recent years there has been a substantial increase in colorectal cancer in younger people. The American Cancer Society shifted recommendations in May 2021 for colorectal screening tests beginning at age 45 instead of the traditional 50 for individuals of average risk for the disease. GEHA covers colorectal cancer screenings 100%.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. The availability of screening tests that can detect the disease early is growing. Individuals can choose to have a traditional colonoscopy or complete a convenient colorectal screening kit in the privacy of their own home that is then sent off to a lab for testing.

Some individuals may be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer due to family medical history or ethnicity. People with African-American heritage have a higher incidence of colorectal cancer. These individuals should discuss their potential for disease with their health care provider.

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, and that is why screening tests are important. When symptoms appear, they will likely vary, depending on the cancer's size and location in the large intestine. Notice any changes in bowel habits and discuss with your doctor.

Some steps you can take to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer are:

  • Eat a diet high in fiber including fruits and vegetables
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not drink alcohol or limit intake to a moderate amount
  • Do not use tobacco
  • Complete screening at the appropriate age or per your doctor's recommendation.

Some may be hesitant to undertake the colonoscopy screening test. Preparation for this screening has improved in recent years. The benefit of knowing your risk of having colorectal abnormalities far outweighs the inconvenience of preparing for the procedure.

GEHA covers a colonoscopy at 100% for medical members age 45-75. To find a facility near you, use our Find Care page. If you are a GEHA member age 45 or older, you are eligible to receive a reward for completing a colorectal screening.

“What is colorectal screening.”, Centers for Disease Control, 17 February, 2022.
“Colorectal cancer.”, American Cancer Society.
“Tests to Detect Colorectal Cancer and Polyps.”, National Cancer Institute, 14 January, 2020.

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