This article was last updated on Sept. 14, 2020.
- Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and the third-leading cause in women. In fact, the American Cancer Society External Site estimates more than 53,000 American lives will be lost to colon cancer Opens PDF in 2020.
- Colonoscopy guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force External Site recommend regular colorectal cancer screenings for most people between the ages of 50 and 75.
- People with a family history of the disease or who have certain other risk factors should talk with their doctor about beginning screenings at a younger age.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer
Many of the symptoms of colorectal cancer can also be caused by something that isn't cancer, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. In most cases, people who have these symptoms do not have cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, go to the doctor so the cause can be found and treated:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark stools, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Preventive screenings can even prevent some colorectal cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
Chronic disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer
According to a recent Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Health of America Report® External Site, patients with chronic conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are at nearly two times the risk for colorectal cancer. Patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes or obesity also see an increased risk, compared to those without these conditions.
If you've been diagnosed with Crohn's disease or another risk factor, talk to your personal doctor about getting screened earlier than age 50, which is when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends External Site.
Screening for colorectal cancer
Colonoscopies are expensive, costing an average $2,100 – $2,400. This method requires patients to prepare ahead of time and often requires anesthesia. 68 percent of people in Iowa actually get the recommended colonoscopy screenings, and 67 percent of people in South Dakota get what's recommended. At home, stool-based tests cost on average between $7 – $24. They're low-risk, accurate, and inexpensive. For more information about these types of tests, ask your personal doctor.
Source: Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Colonoscopies are generally covered 100 percent as a screening test after age 50. Stool-based tests are generally covered when provided as part of a routine preventive exam. Before you get a screening colonoscopy, and to avoid surprise costs, call customer service at the number on your ID card, or log in to myWellmark® Opens New Window to find out how much you should expect to pay for it.