What You Need to Know About Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer screening checks for polyps in your colon or rectum that may develop into cancer. Polyps are common in adults over 50 and most don’t turn into cancer. But some do, particularly a type of polyp called an adenoma. Colorectal cancer screening not only helps doctors catch cancer earlier when it is easier to treat but also helps prevent cancer.
Don’t put off this important test any longer.
Why You Need a Screening
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. But with screening, it’s preventable. If doctors find polyps during screening, they can remove them before they become cancerous. If you are scared to get a colonoscopy, don’t worry. You have other options, too. There are different types of colon cancer screenings available; ask your doctor which type of screening is right for you. Some of these tests can be done in the privacy of your home and require no preparation.
How Much Does It Cost?
Colorectal cancer screening is provided at no cost to you as part of your Florida Blue Medicare health plan. However, if your doctor finds polyps during a colonoscopy, you may have to pay a copay to have them removed. Even though you will have a copay for this, it will be easier for you to have the doctor remove them when he finds them. That way you don’t have to go through the procedure twice.
What Should You Expect?
With colorectal cancer screening, you have options, so it depends on what screening you choose.
Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy looks closely at the inside of your entire colon to check for polyps. Doctors use a tube to see inside of you. The test needs to be repeated every 10 years unless you’re at high risk for colon cancer. Then you might need to get one more often. Here’s some other things you need to know:
- You will have to prepare for your colonoscopy. Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions closely. Most likely, your doctor will ask you to limit solid and high-fiber foods in the days before your procedure. You may also have to take laxatives beforehand. Your colon has to be clear for your doctor to see the walls of your colon and rectum.
- Prior to the procedure, you’ll be given a sedative. The colonoscopy itself only takes about 30-60 minutes. Your doctor will talk to you about to you about what he or she saw after the procedure is over.
Sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy looks at part of your colon (as opposed to the entire colon, like in a colonoscopy). Doctors use a flexible tube to see inside of you. This test needs to be repeated every 4-5 years unless you’re at high risk for colon cancer. Then you might need to get one more often.
The sigmoidoscopy has similar preparation instructions as the colonoscopy. You may need to have an enema before the procedure. But you won’t need a sedative and the test only lasts 10-20 minutes. The test is not painful, but you may feel some cramps.
Your doctor will talk to you about to you about what he or she saw after the procedure is over.
CT colonography: This test looks at the inside of your colon, too. But it uses different technology than a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. First, your colon is filled with air. Doctors then take 3-D images of your colon to look for polyps. This test needs to be repeated every 5 years.
This test is not painful or invasive. But if your doctor does spot an abnormality, you will have to get a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the growth and remove it.
FIT (fecal immunochemical test) Kit: The FIT kit is a simple colorectal cancer screening you do in the comfort of your own home—no special food or prep required. You can get it from your doctor or from a vendor Florida Blue contracts with. This test needs to be repeated every year.
For this test, you will have to collect a small amount of your stool at home. You’ll have a collection kit. Once you are done, you will return it to either your doctor mail it to a lab. After your sample is analyzed, you will get the results.
This test is simple and easy. But if your doctor does find an abnormality, you will have to get a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the growth and remove it.
Fit DNA: FIT-DNA (also known as Cologuard®) is another test you can take at home. However, unlike other at-home tests that must be repeated every year, this test is recommended every 3 years.
How Do You Make an Appointment?
If you haven’t had your Annual Wellness Visit yet this year, this is a great time to ask your doctor about any screenings you need. Your primary care doctor can help you set up the appointment or tell you who to call.
If you have had your visit, call your doctor’s office and ask for help. They can give you a referral or make contact with a specialist who performs colorectal screening.
We are here to help, too. Here’s what we can do for you:
- We can help you find a primary care doctor if you don’t have one. If you are a BlueMedicare HMO member, you must have a primary care doctor to coordinate your care. You don’t have to have one if you are in PPO plan. But having a primary care doctor can help you coordinate your care and look at the total picture of your health. It’s especially important if you see multiple specialists. Your primary care doctor will be the one person who has an eye on everything to do with your health.
- We can also help you schedule any appointments you need during a 3-way call.
- If you have trouble leaving the house, we can send care to you. Florida Blue works with vendors who provide in-home assessments at no cost to you.
- We can also tell you about our HealthyBlue Days events where you can get screenings you need and learn more about our HealthyBlue Rewards program, if you are eligible.
Why We’re Asking You to Get This Test
Seeing your doctor and getting preventive care is important to you. It’s important to us, too. CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is the government organization that oversees Medicare Advantage plans like Florida Blue. Similar to how you use stars to rate a restaurant or hotel, CMS uses a five-star quality rating system to measure the experience people with Medicare have with their health plans and health care system.
One of CMS’ most important goals is to improve the health of people with Medicare and the quality of care they receive. CMS uses a measurement system to evaluate the quality of health care you receive. One of the measures CMS looks at is colorectal cancer screening. If our members who need this test get it, Florida Blue scores better. This helps us improve our Star score. If our Star score is four or above, it means we’re helping our members manage their health. It also helps us improve our benefits for our members.
Healthy Blue Rewards
Depending on your plan, you may be able to earn between $10 and $50 in HealthyBlue Rewards for completing this screening. To learn more about HealthyBlue Rewards, please visit floridablue.com/healthybluerewards
You can earn only one reward for colon cancer screening each year. Your doctor will help you know when you should be screened. Your doctor will also help you decide which test is right for you. Complete a colon cancer screening anytime between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2018, to earn a reward.
Note: Plans eligible for HealthyBlue Rewards include BlueMedicare Choice (RPPO), BlueMedicare Select (PPO), BlueMedicare Complete (HMO SNP), BlueMedicare Classic (HMO), BlueMedicare Classic Plus (HMO) and BlueMedicare Premier (HMO).
BlueMedicare Preferred (HMO), BlueMedicare group retiree plan, BlueMedicare Supplement and BlueMedicare Rx (PDP) members are not eligible for HealthyBlue Rewards.
Filed under: Medicare News