45 is the New 50 for Colorectal Cancer Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends all adults be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45. Previously, it was age 50. The USPSTF lowered the screening age in 2022 due to the higher incidence of colorectal cancer in young and middle-aged people.

Many patients are unaware of the change. It occurred during the middle of the pandemic. Preventive health appointments were often canceled or postponed, as people tended to avoid going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary.

As things return to normal, there are multiple ways to inform eligible patients of this change:

  • Face-to-face discussion during preventive health (and other) appointments
  • Flyers and handouts during checkout
  • Reminders on the patient portal
  • Information included with bills and other mailed correspondence

For a list of free patient education resources on colorectal cancer screening, see the Special Bulletin published earlier this year.

Screening Options

Colonoscopy is classified as a tier one screening by the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer. It is the most effective screening to detect and prevent colorectal cancer before symptoms develop. In addition, during the procedure, the physician can remove polyps or other areas of abnormal tissue and take biopsies if deemed necessary. Beginning at age 45, persons should receive a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Individuals at an elevated risk — whether due to lifestyle factors and/or family history — may necessitate earlier or more frequent screening.

An annual Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is also considered a tier one screening.

Highmark Preventive Health Guidelines

Highmark Preventive Health Guidelines include colorectal cancer screenings for eligible members. Please note that most, although not all, of our employer groups follow the Highmark Preventive Schedule. Therefore, not all Highmark members may have coverage for services on the preventive schedule.

To access the Preventive Health Guidelines, go to the Provider Resource Center > EDUCATION/MANUALS > Preventive Health Guidelines.

Highmark does not recommend particular treatments or health care services. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should determine the appropriate treatment and follow-up with your patient. Coverage of services is subject to the terms of each member’s benefit plan. Additionally, state laws and regulations governing health insurance, health plans and coverage may apply and will vary from state to state.