| Tue, Mar 28, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

One Preventive Screening Test You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

medicare-doctors-for-preventative-screeningsPerhaps no preventive screening test is put off more often—or for longer periods of time—than a colonoscopy. Common responses after finally having the test include: “I’m glad that’s over!” and “That wasn’t so bad.” Indeed, both may be true.

Colonoscopy is a screening test for colorectal cancer. Preventive screening is one reason why the outlook for colon cancer has improved over the last 20 years. The earlier colorectal cancer is caught, the better the chances for successful treatment. The 5-year survival rate for localized colon and rectum cancer is 90.3%. (National Cancer Institute)

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to make sure your preventive screening is up to date. Screening tests help find colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps (growths in the colon) so they may be removed before they turn into cancer.

Medicare Part B covers the following screening tests if you are age 50 or older and are at average risk for colorectal cancer:

  • Fecal occult blood test once every 12 months
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy once every 4 years, or 10 years after a previous colonoscopy
  • Colonoscopy once every 10 years, or 4 years after a previous flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Barium enema once every 4 years, if used instead of colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy

You shouldn’t have to pay anything for the first three screening tests listed. For the barium enema test, you may pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor’s services and a copay to the hospital if it’s done in a hospital outpatient setting.

It’s important to know that you may have to pay for some services if polyps or another problem is discovered during the test. That’s because the test is then diagnostic rather than preventive. This means that you may not know if you will have to pay anything until after the test is done.

Talk to your doctor about your risk for colorectal cancer, the tests that are best for you, and how often you should be tested. Also be sure to ask what it might cost you to have the recommended tests.

Colorectal cancer may be prevented. The American Cancer Society recommends the following to help lower your chances of getting colorectal cancer:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life. Stay lean without being underweight.
  • Be physically active. Limit the time you spend sitting, lying down, watching TV, etc.
  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grain products.
  • Limit the amount of red meat and processed meat you eat.
  • If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to 1 drink per day for women, 2 per day for men.
  • Don’t use tobacco in any form.

And just one final thing: Don’t put off getting screened for cancer of the colon and rectum. It could save your life.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Medicare & You: Get the U.S. government’s official Medicare handbook.

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