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Be proactive with your health and schedule regular cancer screenings

GEHA | January 8, 2021

Scheduling a screening with your doctor doesn’t take much effort, but decrease may your risk of some well-known cancers.

It’s never too late to make a New Year’s resolution and here’s an easy one: Be proactive about your health. Scheduling a screening with your doctor doesn’t take much effort, but decrease may your risk of some well-known cancers.

Colorectal cancer can be revealed with a screening test. These tests can find percancerous polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. People at average risk of colorectal cancer should get screened regularly beginning at age 50. As long as the test results are negative, experts recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. But it doesn't have to be.

The most common cancer among American women is breast cancer. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer are found in women younger than 45 years old.

Breast cancer can be detected with a mammogram. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that most women who are at average risk and are 50 to 74 years old, get a mammogram every 2 years. Women with a parent, sibling or child with breast cancer are at a higher risk for breast cancer and may benefit from beginning screenings in their 40s. If you're 40 to 49 years old, talk to your health provider about when to start screening. GEHA offers three-dimensional mammograms at no cost.

Cervical cancer may be found with two screening tests. The Pap test looks for precancerous cell changes that might become cervical cancer if not treated. The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus that causes most cases of cervical cancer.

This cancer starts in cells that line the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. A cervical screening can often spot slowly changing cells before they cause trouble. Women between ages 21 and 29 should start getting the Pap test at age 21. If it is normal, your doctor may tell you to wait three years until your next Pap test. For women between ages 30 and 65, your doctor may recommend a Pap test only, HPV test only, or both Pap and HPV tests. If the HPV test is normal, your doctor may tell you to wait five years until your next HPV test.

Always talk to your physician about your personal risk factors for any form of cancer or other disease.

In some cases, your primary care provider or OB/GYN may need to provide a referral for a cancer screening. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can use our Find Care tool to find an in-network provider and/or a radiology facility.

“Tests to Detect Colorectal Cancer and Polyps.” National Cancer Institute, 14 January 2020.
“Determine your risk – and practice prevention.” Colorectal Cancer Alliance, 6 March 2020 .
“What Should I Know About Screening?”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 August 2019.
“Cancer Screening Tests Every Woman Should Get.”, WebMD LLC, 19 September 2018.