TRICARE officials promote colorectal cancer screening

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Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States. Of cancers affecting both men and women, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The beginning stages of colorectal cancer often have no symptoms. Because of this, early screening saves lives. CDC officials estimate at least 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with regular screening of everyone aged 50 or older. Screenings can find abnormal growths called polyps that can be removed before becoming dangerous.

For TRICARE Prime and Standard beneficiaries, there are no cost shares or co-pays for colorectal cancer screenings, as well as many other important preventive care services. For Medicare-eligible beneficiaries covered by TRICARE For Life, Medicare covers colorectal cancer screening tests and TRICARE generally pays the remainder of any costs not paid by Medicare.

Aging increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, with more than 90 percent of cases occurring in those aged 50 or older. Other risk factors include inflammatory bowel disease, personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps and certain genetic disorders. Some lifestyle factors also may contribute to a person's risk, such as lack of physical activity, low fruit and vegetable intake, low fiber, high fat diet, overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption and tobacco use, according to the CDC.

According to the CDC, when colorectal cancer is found early and treated, the five-year relative survival rate is 90 percent. Today's technology is a powerful tool for catching colorectal cancer and other cancers. There are many types of screening tests available to find colon polyps or colorectal cancer. Beneficiaries 50 and older should have annual fecal occult blood testing, a proctosigmoidoscopy or sigmoidoscopy every three to five years, or a colonoscopy every 10 years. Those with a higher risk of colorectal cancer due to any of the risk factors previously mentioned, should talk to their doctor about earlier screenings, even as young as age 25.

To learn more about colorectal screening check CDC the Screen for Life campaign at For more information about TRICARE's coverage of colorectal cancer screenings, visit