Doctor and patient talking

It’s time to talk about colorectal cancer screening

Admittedly, it’s not a popular topic of conversation—but it’s an important one. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men and women combined.1 Black Americans are disproportionately affected by the disease. They are 20% more likely than white Americans to get it and about 40% more likely to die from it.2 Among all Americans, an estimated 153,000 individuals will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and 52,550 people will die from it—and yet, colorectal cancer is largely preventable with appropriate screening.3

Colorectal cancer is one of the most expensive forms of cancer to treat, with costs estimated at $24.3 billion in 2020 alone.4 The costs associated with lost work time and diminished productivity – either due to an employee receiving treatment or their need to care for someone with cancer – can have a significant impact on an organization as well. 

Screening is your best defense 

One in three adults today are not getting their recommended screenings, according to the American Cancer Society. Fear of the test, embarrassment, or a knowledge gap could be to blame. Employees may worry about taking time off from work for testing. In underserved communities (many of which are communities of color), lower rates of screening are often attributed to language or cultural issues, transportation barriers, finances, or inequities such as limited access to healthcare facilities. At BCBSRI, we’re working with our provider and community partners to promote the importance of screening and help to remove some of the social and systemic barriers your employees might face when it comes to getting tested.

There are several effective screening options available, including at-home tests as well as colonoscopies. For your employees with BCBSRI medical coverage who are 45 to 75 years old, their recommended colorectal cancer screenings are covered at 100% when they see a provider in your plan’s network. 

Lead by example

To help increase screening rates within your own company, lead by example. Get your screening once you are eligible—and encourage your eligible employees to do the same. Here are other ideas to consider from the American Cancer Society/National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable:

  1. Set a company-wide goal for screening. At BCBSRI, we’ve set an overall screening goal of 80% of all members – up from 71% today – by 2026.
  2. Educate your employees. Help them understand their risk factors and screening options, as well as their insurance coverage for testing. You can use this detailed article from to get started. 
  3. Make screening easier for employees. Could you, for example, offer paid time off for eligible employees so they can prep and complete their screening? It’s a bold idea, but it does send a strong message about the value you place on your employees’ health and well-being. If extra PTO isn’t viable, work with your leadership team to determine how else you might support these employees.
  4. End the stigma. Talk openly about colorectal cancer screening with your family, friends, and colleagues. It’s the best way to “normalize” the procedure and help to increase screening rates. And it just might save someone’s life.

To learn more about how to promote testing and increase screening rates at your company, contact your BCBSRI account executive or wellness consultant.

Tara DeMoura
Tara DeMoura
Senior Vice President, Employer Markets