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Don’t ignore these important cancer screenings

GEHA | June 23, 2022

Follow these guidelines for your personal health.

Screening tests are used to find cancer before a person has any symptoms. They are given to people who seem healthy to screen for unnoticed problems. Getting screening tests regularly may help detect breast, cervical and colorectal (colon) cancers early, when treatment is likely to be most successful.

Breast cancer: Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

Cervical cancer: The Pap test can find abnormal cells in the cervix that may turn into cancer. The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause these cell changes. Pap tests also can find cervical cancer early when the chance of being cured is very high.

Colorectal cancer: Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. This cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screenings can find these polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer and find colorectal cancer early when treatment works best.

Follow these guidelines for your own screening tests:

Breast cancer

  • Women between ages 40 and 49 should talk with their provider and look at their family history about when to start screening with a mammogram. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend annual mammograms.
  • Women aged 50 and older should have a mammogram every two years.
  • Consider 3D mammography. This newer type of screening allows doctors to see breast tissue more clearly in three dimensions, lowering the need for follow-up testing. It may also be more helpful for women with dense breast tissue.
  • If you have certain factors, such as family history or a genetic tendency, your doctor may suggest getting mammograms at an earlier age.

Cervical cancer

  • Women ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years.
  • Between the ages of 30 and 65 years, women should be screened every three years with a Pap test, every five years with HPV alone or every five years with a combination of HPV and Pap test.
  • Women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for their age groups.
  • Women should continue cervical cancer screening after they have stopped having children.

Colorectal cancer:

  • Men and women should get their first colonoscopy at age 45 and continue through age 75.
  • Those ages 76 to 85 should talk to their doctor about whether to continue to get screened.
  • Seniors over age 85 should no longer get screened.

GEHA covers cervical screenings at no cost to you. In addition, one mammogram is covered per year for members ages 40 to 64 and one every two consecutive calendar years for members ages 65 and up. In some cases, your primary care provider or OB/GYN may need to provide a referral for the mammogram screening. GEHA covers a colonoscopy at 100% for medical members ages 45 to 75.To find an in-network provider and/or radiology facility, use our Find Care tool. If you are a GEHA member age 45 or older, you are eligible to receive a reward for completing a colorectal screening.

This is a brief description of the features of Government Employees Health Association, Inc.'s medical plans. Before making a final decision, please read the GEHA Federal brochures which are available at All benefits are subject to the definitions, limitations, and exclusions set forth in the Federal brochure.

“Screening Tests.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 May 2022.
“American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.”, 14 March 2022.
“To Screen or Not to Screen?”, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 2017.

The information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you have questions regarding a medical condition, regimen, or treatment you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified medical professional because of information you have read herein.