BATON ROUGE, La. – Did you know Louisiana has the country’s fourth-highest death rate from colorectal cancer, according to the Louisiana Colorectal Cancer Roundtable? The state also has one of the lowest rates of eligible patients being screened.
During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is highlighting the risks from this form of cancer and explaining why it’s important to ask your health care provider about screening.
“Screening saves lives, but people need to make sure they get tested at the right time, based on their age and health or family history,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, Blue Cross medical director. “Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among men and women. Everyone needs to have an annual wellness visit with their health care providers to talk about their risks and when to begin screening.”
In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended beginning screening for colorectal cancer at 45 years old, lowered from 50 years old. This age recommendation is for individuals with average risks. People with a personal or family history of cancer or who have been diagnosed with health conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may need to be screened earlier.
“Colorectal cancer is more common among adults 50 and older, but in the past couple of years, there have been increases in younger adults being diagnosed with colon cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute,” Dr. Wigginton said. “Colorectal cancer is actually one of the leading causes of cancer death among people in the under-50 age group. So if you’re turning 45 and newly eligible, talk to your health care provider about scheduling your colorectal cancer screening.”
Colorectal Cancer Risks
While anyone is at risk of developing colorectal cancer, Black patients are more likely to be diagnosed at younger ages. And in recent years, higher numbers of white, Alaskan Native and American Indian patients have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 50.
With screening now recommended to start at 45 years old for most patients, health officials hope this will help more people catch cancer in its earliest stages, when treatment is most likely to succeed.
“The good news is that a colonoscopy is one of the most effective cancer-screening tests there is,” Dr. Wigginton said. “This procedure lets the health care provider see inside your colon. If there are any pre-cancerous growths, called polyps, they can be removed before they turn into cancer. The colonoscopy itself is a very easy procedure. It can usually be done outpatient, you are under anesthetic while it’s taking place, and most people are able to get back to their normal activities within a day.”
While talking about colorectal cancer and digestive health can feel uncomfortable, it’s important to have a conversation about it, Dr. Wigginton added. “Your health care provider will not be the least bit embarrassed to discuss this with you, and the conversation could save your life,” he said.
Learn more about colorectal cancer screening in this animated video (:44).
Blue Cross and other health insurers cover colorectal cancer screening for eligible members at very low or no out-of-pocket cost. Contact Customer Service for your health plan (the number is on your member ID card) to find out how cancer screening is covered and how much you would pay.
Blue Cross members who have been diagnosed with cancer can get health coaching, information and support from the insurer’s clinical team. Health coaches include nurses, dietitians, social workers and pharmacists. Members do not pay anything to work with a health coach. Visit www.bcbsla.com/Stronger for more information about Care Management services and programs.
Follow Blue Cross on social media @BCBSLA throughout March to see original graphic designs, videos and other messages to help Louisianians learn how they can be STRONGER THAN Cancer. Download, share or post these messages on your personal social media with the hashtags #StrongerThanCancer | #45IsTheNew50 and inspire your loved ones to get screened. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short health videos on colorectal cancer and other health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.