Taking Action for Our Health

Cancer Screenings: Act

Get regular cancer screenings. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about cancer screening, be sure to ask! Don’t wait to become sick. Your health is too important.

Screening recommendations for prostate cancer: Men need to be able to make an informed decision with their doctor about whether being screened for prostate cancer is right for them. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of the prostate cancer tests.

Screening recommendations for cervical cancer: If you are 21-29: You should be screened every three years. If you are 30-65: You should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) every five years. This is the preferred approach, but it is alright to have a Pap test alone every three years. If you are 65 or older: You can stop screening at age 65 if the last three Pap tests or last two co-tests (Pap plus HPV) within the previous 10 years were normal. If there is a history of an abnormal Pap test within the past 20 years, discuss continued screening with your doctor.

Screening recommendations for breast cancer: Get regular mammograms. While there are different guidelines, these are from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) (PDF). If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, you should get a mammogram every 2 years. If you are under 49 or over 75, talk to your doctor about when to get a mammogram. If your doctor doesn’t talk to you about a mammogram, ask him or her!

Screening recommendations for colorectal cancer: Start by talking with your doctor about your family history of colon and rectal cancers and find out when you should get screened and what type of colon cancer screening is best for you. If you have no personal or family history of abnormal results, get screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45 years. Several screening options are available, including an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam), or a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person's stool (a stool-based test). All colon cancer screening tests, including stool-based ones, are covered under the Affordable Care Act and may be an option if your doctor orders it.

Visual (structural) exams of the colon and rectum:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years; this is one of the best ways to find (and even treat very early) colorectal cancer
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years

Stool-based tests:

  • Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every 3 years
  • Reference: US Preventive Services Task Force

    Helpful Resources for Getting Screened

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There are many online tools to help you find a nearby doctor or clinic that can screen for cancer.

  • Most health insurance plans feature a “Find a Doctor” section on their website. Visit your insurance provider’s website to locate a doctor in your area.
  • National Cancer Institute (1-800-4-CANCER)
  • American Cancer Society (1-800-227-2345)

For Women:

Finding time can be hard. But making time to take care of your health is very important. A mammogram test itself usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, but you may be at the clinic for your appointment for longer. To get a better idea of time, ask how long it will take when you make your appointment.

Getting to your appointment can be hard, but don’t let this stop you. Check your local transit authority for bus or train schedules. Mobile apps like Uber and Lyft can provide door-to-door service to and from your appointment for much less than a taxi. Or reach out for help! You may be able to get a ride from a friend or family member.

Medicaid patients also have the option of using NEMT (Non-Emergency Medical Transportation). The NEMT program ensures transportation to eligible fee-for-service and managed care health plan participants who do not have access to free appropriate transportation to and from scheduled covered services. The NEMT program may get you to your appointment using:

  • public transportation or bus tokens
  • vans
  • taxi
  • ambulance
  • even an airplane if necessary

You may also be able to get help with gas costs if you have a car or have a friend or a neighbor who can take you. The NEMT program must approve this before your appointment. Benefits and program types vary by market.

Mammograms have been covered by insurance since 2010 (when the Affordable Care Act passed). Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get your mammogram for free. You can find out by checking with your health plan or doctor.

For low-income, uninsured and underinsured women, there are other options:

Mammograms may be uncomfortable for some women for a brief period of time because they press down on the breasts. Patients who are sensitive or worried about pain may want to schedule their mammogram a week after their menstrual period when the breasts are less tender.

Waiting for mammogram results can be stressful and weigh heavily on your mind. Talk with your friends, family, or doctor if you are very worried. Ask for support. The National Breast Cancer Foundation and other websites offer helpful tips for what to do when waiting for results.

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