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Colorectal Cancer Exams

For colorectal cancer screening, TRICARE covers:

Individuals at an Average Risk for Colon Cancer

  • Fecal occult blood testing – Either guaiac based or immunochemical based testing of three consecutive stool samples either guaiac-based or immunochemical-based testing of three consecutive stool samples once every 12 months for beneficiaries who have reached age 50 (at least 11 months must have passed following the month in which the last covered screening fecal occult blood test was done).
  • Proctosigmoidoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, once every three to five years, beginning at age 50.
  • Optical (conventional) Colonoscopy once every 10 years for individuals age 50 and older.

Individuals at an Increased Risk for Colon Cancer

A family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps increases an individual’s risk of colon cancer. The following identifies these risk factors and the cancer screenings and frequencies covered for individuals at increased risk for colon cancer:

  • One or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with sporadic colorectal cancer or an adenomatous polyp before the age of 60 or in two or more first-degree relatives at any age. Optical colonoscopy should be performed every three to five years beginning at age 40 or 10 years earlier than the youngest affected relative, whichever is earlier.
  • One or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with sporadic colorectal cancer or an adenomatous polyp at age 60 or older, or two second-degree relatives diagnosed with colon cancer. Either flexible sigmoidoscopy (once every five years) or optical colonoscopy (once every 10 years) should be performed beginning at age 40.

Individuals at High Risk for Colon Cancer

Certain other risk factors put an individual at high risk for colon cancer. The following identifies these risk factors and the cancer screenings and frequencies covered for individuals at high risk for colon cancer:

  • Individuals with known or suspected Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). Annual flexible sigmoidoscopy beginning at age 10 to 12.
  • Family history of Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) syndrome. Optical colonoscopy should be performed once every one to two years beginning at age 20 to 25, or 10 years younger than the earliest age of diagnosis of colorectal cancer, whichever is earlier.
  • Individuals diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Chronic Ulcerative Colitis (CUC), or Crohn’s disease. For these individuals, cancer risk begins to be significant eight years after the onset of pancolitis or 10 to 12 years after the onset of left-sided colitis. For individuals meeting these risk parameters, optical colonoscopy should be performed every one to two years with biopsies for dysplasia.

Computed Tomographic Colonography (CTC)

CTC is covered as a colorectal cancer screening ONLY when an optical colonoscopy is medically contraindicated or cannot be completed due to a known colonic lesion, structural abnormality, or other technical difficulty is encountered that prevents adequate visualization of the entire colon. CTC is NOT covered as a colorectal screening for any other reason.

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5 comments

  1. This week, TRICARE—the health care program for more than 9.4 million active-duty, reserve and National Guard personnel, veterans and their families—announced that it will cover Cologuard, a non-invasive, at-home colon cancer screening test, with no copay. This is an important development in preventative health that your readers should know about.

    Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., but it’s also preventable. Screening guidelines call for men and women to begin screening at age 50; unfortunately, 23 million Americans in this age group do not comply because many believe their only testing option is colonoscopy.

    Cologuard, which requires a prescription, is sent to a patient’s home and requires no prep, no time off of work and no sedation. The test takes about 15 minutes to complete in the comfort of home. Once finished, Cologuard is returned to the lab for analysis via UPS. For military personnel, veterans and their families, the ease and convenience of Cologuard make it an especially fitting screening option.

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