March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This type of cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it’s the third most-common type of cancer diagnosed in men and women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While colorectal cancer is common nationally, it occurs at even higher rates in Louisiana. According to Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs, the state has the country’s fourth-highest death rate from colorectal cancer. Louisiana unfortunately also has a below-average rate of eligible patients being screened for colorectal cancer. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminds you to talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and when you should begin screening.
“Colorectal cancer screening is very effective at catching the disease in its earliest stages, when treatment has the best chance of success. This can save your life, but you need to be tested – especially if you’ve put off screening in the past year because of COVID-19,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, Blue Cross medical director.
The U.S. Preventive Health Services Task Force recommends everyone start colorectal cancer screening at age 50. People who have a family history of colorectal cancer, certain inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease or colitis, and people with genetic risk factors might need to begin screening at younger ages.
“The best thing to do is have a conversation with your healthcare provider to find out when you should start screening and what type of test is best for you, based on your family history and any risk factors you have,” Dr. Wigginton said. “Colonoscopy is the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening, but there are other tests, including some you can do at home.”
Dr. Wigginton explains why it’s important to be aware of colorectal cancer and screening options in this video (2:15).
In addition to detecting colorectal cancer, screening can also pick up pre-cancerous polyps, which healthcare providers can remove before they turn into cancer. Most health plans and Medicare plans cover colorectal cancer screening at very low or $0 out-of-pocket costs.
“I know talking about colon health can feel embarrassing and uncomfortable, but it’s important to ask your provider about screening,” Dr. Wigginton said. “You do not want to come through the pandemic only to find out you have cancer that could have been caught and treated sooner. So, if it’s been more than a year since you’ve had a wellness visit, schedule an appointment and ask your provider about any screenings or tests you should have.”
Many health plans have shopping tools that let you see what colorectal cancer screening and other common screenings or tests cost at different providers near you. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana members can use Smart Shopper, at bcbsla.com/SmartShopper, to see what they can expect to pay for colonoscopies or other screenings at different facilities in their networks.
If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or another type of cancer, Blue Cross’ care team is here to stand strong with you through every step of your health journey. Health coaches can support you with personalized information, guidance and encouragement. It does not cost you anything to work with a Blue Cross health coach. Visit bcbsla.com/Stronger to learn more or sign up for health coaching.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube page to see short videos with the clinical team and others on various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates on health topics.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We were recognized in 2019 as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.