Skip to main content

Military Health System

Colorectal Cancer Screening Age Decreases to 45

Image of A patient sits in an office with while a health care provider talks to her. U.S. Navy Cmdr. Candida Ferguson, a general surgeon at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, talks with a patient about colorectal cancer screening. The Defense Health Agency established new age recommendations for screenings. Regular screening with a stool test, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early. (Photo: Deidre Smith, Naval Hospital Jacksonville)

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health

Although the overall death rate from colorectal cancer has been on the decline in recent years, it remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. There has also been an increase in colorectal cancer-related death for people younger than 55, and an increase in diagnosis in patients between the ages of 40-49 over the past decade, according to the National Cancer Institute.

With this new upwards trend, national health guidelines recently lowered the initial screening age from 50 to 45. This change means that an additional 21 million Americans will be eligible for screening.

In the Military Health System, the estimated impact of the lower age recommendation is that over 200,000 additional beneficiaries will need to be screened for CRC, according to Dr. Chin Hee Kim, deputy chief of specialty care support of the Defense Health Agency Directorate of Medical Affairs.

The new DHA guidelines also offer various CRC screening options, including expanding the use of a stool-based test known as Fecal Immunochemical Test, or FIT, as an alternative to a colonoscopy.

“Colorectal cancer screening, and preventive screenings in general, are important for overall wellness and healthy living. The MHS strives to implement evidence-based strategies to optimize both prevention and early detection of serious diseases before they become major,” Kim said. “Preventive care helps to sustain your health, meet standards for duty fitness, and maintain medical readiness.”

There is a 5-year survival rate of approximately 90%, if colorectal cancer is detected early.

When Should You Be Screened for Colorectal Cancer?

“Beginning at age 45, all average-risk men and women should undergo routine CRC screening,” said Kim.

Patients are considered to be at average risk if they:

  • Do not have a personal history of CRC or certain types of polyps.
  • Do not have a family history of CRC.
  • Do not have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Do not have a confirmed or suspected hereditary CRC syndrome.

According to Kim, CRC might not cause symptoms right away, but if you have one of these symptoms, you should see a doctor.

  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood.
  • 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's not relieved by having one.
  • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black.
  • Cramping or abdominal pain.
  • Unintended weight loss.

Kim said, “The screening method for CRC is based on shared decision making between the provider and the patient after discussing risks and benefits of all available screening options. A colonoscopy can be offered for both average risk and high-risk patients. The goal is to inform our beneficiaries about all screening options, including FIT, to optimize overall CRC screening for the MHS.”

Increasing Usage of FIT as a Tool

“While we have made great strides in colon cancer screening and prevention over the last several decades, around one-third of the U.S. population is not up-to-date on testing. By educating patients and providers about evidence-based alternatives to colonoscopy such as FIT, we are striving to expand access to screening to as many patients as we possibly can,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Brett Sadowski, program director of gastroenterology fellowship at the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in San Diego.

Of the existing stool-based testing available, FIT is one of the most sensitive and cost-effective screening tests for colon cancer screening. The FIT is an easy to use, non-invasive, stool-based test that can be done at home.

The test must be done every year, but many people find them more convenient than other tests like a colonoscopy,” said Kim.

Instead of having to undergo an invasive procedure like a colonoscopy, one can collect their stool sample at home and mail it to the lab in provided packaging. Importantly, if a positive test result occurs, the patient should understand that a colonoscopy needs to be performed to complete the screening process. Like all screening tests, patients should be aware of following limitations of FIT, which include:

  • May miss tumors that bleed in small amounts or not at all.
  • Lower sensitivity to detect a potential pre-cancerous lesion in the colon.
  • Essential need to be repeated annually.

“The MHS is also working with clinicians to communicate and standardize workflow that incorporates the new age recommendation along with the appropriate use of FIT for average-risk patients. Medical logistics is also ensuring that FIT supplies are available at all military treatment facilities,” Kim said.

Lifestyle Changes Could Reduce Risks

Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can lower your risk of these types of cancer.

“Lifestyle factors play a profound role in our ability to impact our gut microbiome to support gut health. For all individuals, but especially for those who are at highest risk, lifestyle factors play an important role in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer,” U.S. Air Force Col. Mary A. Kiel, chief of the Air Force Medical Home Program at Air Force Medical Readiness Agency.

Along with a healthy diet, other “lifestyle factors such as reducing body weight, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, and engaging in regular physical activity can have a profound positive impact on reducing risk,” said Kiel.

TRICARE Benefits

TRICARE covers colorectal cancer screenings for average-risk beneficiaries beginning at the age of 45 years old. It will cover the following types of screenings:

  • Fecal Immunochemical Testing: One stool sample once every 12-months.
  • Fecal Immunochemical Testing: Stool DNA tests once every 1-3 years.
  • Fecal Occult Blood Testing: Three consecutive stool samples once every 12 months.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Once every 5-years.
  • Optical colonoscopy: Once every 10 years.
  • Computed Tomographic Colonography: Once every 5 years.
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Every 10 years with FIT every year.

If you have concerns, need more information about colorectal cancer, or meet any of the screening guidelines, it is recommended you talk to your doctor.

You also may be interested in...

Uniformed Services University Professor Develops Self-Diagnosis, Treatment Kit for Common Female Infections

Article Around MHS
1/4/2023
USU infographic with Dr. Elizabeth Kostas-Polston

It's a major research advancement in women's health and females serving in the U.S. military may soon have access to it. See how a new, self-diagnosis and self-treatment kit can help deployed women overseas or in austere environments.

Recommended Content:

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences | Research & Innovation | Women's Health

Women's Health Equity is a Real Focus for DOD, Mullen Says

Article
12/27/2022
Military medical personnel at medical examination

Women’s heath equity is fully invested in by DOD’s actions, acting AD for Health Affairs tells a recent podcast.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Blanchfield Named One of Best Hospitals for Maternity Care

Article Around MHS
12/22/2022
Meternity patients filling out forms

Providing safe, excellent, quality care to patients takes incredible work and dedication - especially when it comes to women's health. Find out what's happening at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital that landed them a top spot on the Best Hospitals for Maternity Care list.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Children's Health

Protect Yourself With Respiratory Illnesses on the Rise

Article Around MHS
12/19/2022
Military medical personnel administering vaccine

"Tis the season, and respiratory illnesses are on the rise. Learn critical health guidance about the viral triple threat of COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, and the commonsense steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunization Tool Kit | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Immunization Healthcare Division

Breast Cancer Reminder: Get Your Annual Screening

Article
12/15/2022
Military personnel in mammogram screening

Annual mammograms are easy to schedule and can detect very small cancers.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | MHS GENESIS

New Work Group Looks at Preventive Health Measures for Service Members

Article Around MHS
12/9/2022
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Christopher Mohan

The U.S. Coast Guard is now prioritizing a review of health-related data to determine how to reduce illness and injuries within the workforce. This shift is prompted by a policy update within the Coast Guard Medical Manual COMDTINST 6000.7, as well as the new Population Health Optimization Work Group that will impact members, civilians, dependents, and retirees.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

More Inclusive Research Key to Understanding Prevalence of Dementia

Article
12/7/2022
Animated image of brain

Dementia and its most common form, Alzheimer’s disease, are cognitive disorders that affect more women than men. Although there are various theories on why, more equitable research is needed.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Psychological Fitness | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Cervical Health Awareness Month

Infographic
12/6/2022
Cervical Health Awareness Month

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, but can be prevented through vaccination and regular screening. Get information on women’s health: https://health.mil/WomensHealth #CervicalHealthAwarenessMonth

Recommended Content:

January | Women's Health

Birth Defects Prevention Month

Infographic
12/6/2022
Birth Defects Prevention Month

Getting enough folic acid in your diet before and during pregnancy is one easy way to help prevent birth defects. Here’s some information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/index.html

Recommended Content:

January | Women's Health

Military Health System Offers a Variety of Contraceptive Care Services

Article
12/1/2022
military medical personnel demonstrates an intrauterine device

The Military Health System offers ample contraceptive care services to help beneficiaries take control of their health, life, and careers.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Contraceptive Care | Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care | Reproductive Health Toolkit | Walk-In Contraceptive Services Toolkit | Contraceptive Care Toolkit

Introducing Contraceptive Care Clinics

Video
11/23/2022
Introducing Contraceptive Care Clinics

Walk-in contraceptive services are now available at military hospitals and clinics. No referral or appointment is required. Check with your local military hospital or clinic to see if walk-in appointments are available. Learn more at health.mil/womenshealth.

Recommended Content:

Walk-In Contraceptive Services Toolkit | Women's Health | Contraceptive Care | Contraceptive Care Toolkit | Reproductive Health Toolkit

Lung Cancer Leading Cause of Cancer Death

Article
11/22/2022
 U.S Navy MRI technologist behind a computer screen with a magnetic resonance machine in the background.

With November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, be aware of symptoms, causes, and steps to take if you think you need screening.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Nurse Raises Awareness About Men’s Health, Grows Mustache

Article Around MHS
11/20/2022
U.S. Army Maj. Cody McDonald

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital encourages soldiers and civilians at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana to grow a mustache this November to raise awareness about prostate and testicular cancers, mental health, and suicide prevention for men.

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | November

U.S. Air Force Provides Information for Aircrew Considering Flying During Their Pregnancy

Article Around MHS
11/14/2022
U.S. Air Force Maj. Molly Sexton conducts pre-flight inspections

In April 2022, the U.S. Air Force issued a clarification of policies pertaining to aircrew during pregnancy. The policy recognized the need to provide aircrew, commanders, and health care professionals greater awareness of and transparency around the process for submission and review of waivers to fly during pregnancy.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

What You Should Know About RSV: Symptoms, Prevention, Care

Article Around MHS
11/14/2022
infant smiling

You may have heard of a virus called respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. But do you know how serious it is and who is most at risk? Learn the signs, and how quickly RSV can put patients at risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and even death.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 12
Refine your search
Last Updated: January 13, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery