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World Cancer Day emphasizes screenings to save lives

World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.

Today marks World Cancer Day, an event led by the Union for International Cancer Control to raise awareness of the disease and encourage prevention, detection, and treatment. According to the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute, approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2018, the latest year for which figures are available. The most common cancers include breast, lung, prostate, and colon.

Approximately 38.4 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, the cancer institute states.

As part of the health promotion and disease prevention benefit, TRICARE covers screenings for many different types of cancer, including the following:

Breast cancer: Between 2016 and 2018, approximately 80,000 TRICARE beneficiaries were diagnosed with either malignant abnormal growths of the breast, called carcinomas, or pre-cancerous cells, called neoplasms. A policy change effective Jan. 1 allows digital breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography, to be used to screen for breast cancer. While the procedure may not be offered at all military treatment facilities, the expanded benefit will be available as a screening and diagnostic tool for beneficiaries with TRICARE coverage.

The procedure – known technically as digital breast tomosynthesis, or DBT – will be offered primarily to women age 40 and older, and women age 30 and older who are considered at high risk for breast cancer.

Cervical cancer: Forty years ago, it was the leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But thanks for screening tests, cases of cervical cancer, as well as deaths from it, have declined dramatically.

The Pap test, or smear, looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cancerous if not treated appropriately. The CDC recommends women start getting Pap tests at age 21. If results are normal, they may wait three years before the next test.

For women 30 to 65, the CDC recommends talking to health care providers about getting only a Pap test, only a test for human papillomavirus, or HPV, or both tests – called co-testing. Women older than 65 may not need regular screening. Learn more about screening guidelines at the CDC website.

Skin cancer: Too much exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays may cause skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States, according to the CDC. Damage may occur in as little as 15 minutes, the CDC adds. TRICARE covers skin exams for beneficiaries who have a family or personal history of skin cancer, increased occupational or recreational exposure to sunlight, or clinical evidence of precursor lesions.

Prostate cancer: After non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. men, the CDC says. It's also one of the leading causes of cancer deaths.

TRICARE may cover one screening every 12 months as part of a clinical preventive exam. The screening may include a digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen screening for men 40 and older with a family history of prostate cancer in two or more other family members; men 45 and older with a family history of prostate cancer in at least one other family member diagnosed younger than 65; all African-American men 45 and older regardless of family history; and men 50 and older with at least a 10-year life expectancy.

Find out more about cancer screenings covered by TRICARE.

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