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Colorectal cancer: Caught before it's too late

Angie's colorectal cancer story.

*This article was last updated September 2020.

It started with a routine exam when Angie Hunt turned 40. While at the appointment, her personal doctor recommended a take-home fecal immunochemical (FIT) test* which is known for detecting blood in stool — often effective in diagnosis of colorectal cancer. “I wasn’t familiar with the FIT test, but while visiting with my doctor, she told me it might not hurt to do one,” says Hunt. After all, she was an unlikely candidate for colorectal cancer and didn’t feel any urgency to complete the test Opens in a new window once she got home. But when her doctor’s office called her with a reminder a few weeks later, she finally sent it in.

“Shortly afterwards, I got a call back from my doctor telling me they detected blood,” Hunt says.

Hoping the results would indicate something else, Hunt scheduled a colonoscopy. The test confirmed she had colorectal cancer External Site.

Many patients are unfamiliar with these inexpensive at-home tests External Site, which are accurate, low-risk and not invasive. Colonoscopies can be too expensive, invasive and time-consuming, and these stool-based tests are a valuable alternative for early detection.

By completing a follow-up call after Hunt’s appointment and encouraging her to complete the FIT test, her personal doctor was able to catch her colorectal cancer before she even was aware of any symptoms. In August 2016, Hunt had a foot of her colon removed along with 14 lymph nodes. “I feel incredibly fortunate that it was caught so early,” she says.

That single phone call made all the difference to Hunt — she leaned on her trusted personal doctor and charted a course that would help her become cancer-free in April 2017.

“I have a great relationship with my doctor,” says Hunt. “She’s been very proactive with me, encouraging me to do different types of screenings. I would have never thought to ask her about doing a FIT test to detect colorectal cancer at age 40.”

Watch Angie’s colorectal cancer story

Chronic disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer

According to the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® Health of America® Report External Site, employees who have a chronic condition like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are at nearly two times the risk for being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Additionally, if you have employees who have been diagnosed with diabetes or obesity, these individuals also see increased risk in colorectal cancer, than those without the chronic conditions.

The report finds that 61 percent of those over the age of 50+ cite finding the screening process uncomfortable both emotionally and physically. For the 18-49 age range, they do no believe they are at risk for colorectal cancer. All age groups agreed that their primary care physician has not recommended the screening.

Did you know?

The millennial generation is expect to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. While this generation may be focused on a healthy lifestyle, ironically, they are among one of the unhealthiest generations to enter the workforce. One of the top-10 conditions affecting millennials is Chron's disease and ulcerative colitis — both conditions known to increase the risk of colorectal cancer — increased in prevalence by 10 percent from 2014-17.

Angie Hunt is proof that a patient-provider relationship is essential

Angie is a great example of how strong doctor-patient relationships Opens in a new window can save lives. For more on Hunt and another Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield member who share their story on battling colorectal cancer and the important role their provider played in early detection and care, visit BlueSM online Opens in a new window. While you're there, check out the exclusive preventive care Opens in a new window and healthy living Opens in a new window content to keep your employees overall health and well-being top-of-mind.

myWellmark® can be your employees trusted sidekick in navigating colorectal cancer

If an employee within your company is diagnosed with colorectal cancer — encourage them to register for myWellmark Opens in a new window. myWellmark can serve as their one-stop-shop for finding an in-network doctor, to finding a local pharmacy and calculating prescription drug costs. Not to mention, employees facing a colorectal cancer diagnosis can get the following with myWellmark:

  • Easy-to-understand claims information with personalized insights.
  • Complete coverage details specific to their health plan.
  • Estimate cost of care for procedures and services before they receive them.
  • Helpful, relevant well-being content, news and special alerts.
  • Insights to make informed decisions regarding their health and health care spending.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.

*Please note: The FIT test is covered as a preventive service at age 50. If under age 50, a member may receive this test but it will likely be subject to deductible and coinsurance.