Few things are more important than preventive care when it comes to protecting you against cancer.
Healthcare providers and cancer survivors everywhere agree that when it comes to the dreaded “c word,” the earlier you know what you’re up against, the better. But regardless of whether or not you’ve managed to stay cancer-free thus far in life, it’s important to know that Medicare can be one of your greatest allies in the battle against cancer.
Your “Welcome to Medicare” Preventive Visit
Medicare preventive care begins with your “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit, a comprehensive examination offered during your first year on Medicare. During this visit you and your doctor or qualified non-physician practitioner will discuss your current health conditions and prescriptions, review your medical and family history, and do tests and screenings to help set the course for your most effective future care. The “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit is free to most people enrolled in Medicare, and if it detects any sign of cancer you’ll be in a great position to take immediate action.
Medicare-Covered Cancer Screenings
As an important part of its preventive services, Medicare covers screenings for breast cancer, cervical and vaginal cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.
Breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer among women in the US, and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. Each year, there are over 200,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed across the country, and nearly 40,000 women die annually of this disease. Medicare covers a breast screening mammogram every 12 months for any woman with Medicare aged 40 or older.
Cervical and vaginal cancer affect many women, but often go undetected because their symptoms are mistaken for PMS or ovulation pain. Many women have no idea they are suffering from serious diseases until the later stages, and would have benefited greatly from earlier detection and treatment. Fortunately, Medicare covers Pap tests and pelvic exams to help detect cervical and vaginal cancers in women.
Colon cancer screenings are available to everyone on Medicare. If you aren’t considered at high risk, you can receive a Medicare-covered colonoscopy once every 120 months. If you’re considered at high risk, you can receive a colonoscopy every 24 months. There is no minimum age.
Prostate cancer screening is available to men 50 and older in order to help detect prostate cancer early, when treatment is most effective. Beginning the day after your 50th birthday, you’re eligible to receive a digital rectal exam and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test once every 12 months.