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Colon cancer fast facts

Early detection is key

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. That's why you should know the symptoms External Site and understand the importance of preventive screenings and early detection.

  • Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and the third-leading cause in women.
  • The American Cancer Society External Site recommends regular colorectal cancer screenings for most people starting at age 50.
  • 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.

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.