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Beating Colorectal Cancer With Early Detection

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. Each year, an estimated 6,600 Illinoisans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 2,400 will die from it. But the good news is that colon cancer is highly treatable and often curable when found early.

Colonoscopies are not the only form of colon cancer screening. A Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is an at-home colon cancer screening test that doesn’t require any preparation and causes no pain or discomfort. Because March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, our Care Van® will be at the YMCA Wellness event in Springfield on March 18.Our trained staff will be distributing FIT kits along with educational materials at no cost to all eligible individuals.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is making FIT kits available to members — and non-members — to help them with early detection. The U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce recommends annual FIT testing for colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45.

The Care Van program plans to distribute 400 FIT kits throughout Illinois at local events this year. In 2022, we mailed 30,000 of these kits to eligible members and, of those that were returned, 321 came back positive or abnormal findings were detected.

“I’m thankful I’m still here,” said Darlene Brandt who took the test she received in the mail a few years back. Within days of returning the kit, she and her doctor were notified of the results. A follow-up colonoscopy confirmed Brandt had stage 2 colon cancer. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor, and the early diagnosis and treatment prevented a need for radiation or chemotherapy.

Why use FIT

The U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce recommends annual FIT testing for colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45.

  • FIT testing is appropriate screening for people with an average risk for colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Average risk means no family history of colorectal cancer, no personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, no previous polyps and no previous colorectal cancer.
  • When compared to stool DNA tests, FIT kits have fewer false positives, which reduces unnecessary colonoscopies, according to the National Cancer Institute. Unlike stool DNA, FIT kits require only a swab rather than a stool sample.

How in-home testing works

The in-home testing process is quick and easy:

  • The kit doesn’t require fasting, dietary restrictions or preparation. Medications are taken according to individuals’ normal schedule.
  • Participants complete the test kit at home, provide the name of their primary care physician (PCP) and mail the test to the vendor for processing. An addressed, postage-paid envelope is included in the kit.
  • The vendor sends results to the participant and their PCP, if the PCP contact information was provided.

Visit our website for more information about colon cancer screenings and other preventable diseases.

We’re here for you. Visiting doctors that are in your network helps keep your health care costs down. If you’re a BCBSIL member, here are three resources to find an in-network doctor or health care professional:

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association