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Colorectal Cancer Screening

What are we tracking and why?

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. Screening for colorectal cancer in patients showing no symptoms can identify polyps before they become cancerous or detect colorectal cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most effective. Research shows that regular screening can reduce death rates from colorectal cancer.

We track the percentage of our patients aged 51-75 who have been screened for colorectal cancer using one of the following tests:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) within the last 12 months
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy within the last 5 years
  • Colonoscopy within the last 10 years

Note: Patients with a history of colorectal cancer or total colectomy are excluded from this measure.

How are we doing?

The screening tests listed above are part of a national measurement used to compare the performance of medical facilities across the nation. Although it is not included in the measure, a virtual colonoscopy is a medically-acceptable procedure to screen for colorectal cancer. Because virtual colonoscopies are not widely available, they are not a part of the national measurement. However, at Walter Reed Bethesda, they are an essential and effective part of the screening process. If our patients have had a virtual colonoscopy within the last 5 years, we consider them on track for colorectal cancer screening, and will not order another test. This lowers our performance on the national measurement, and is reflected in the percentages shown above.

What are we doing to improve?

At each primary care appointment, we review our patient’s medical record to determine if he or she is due for a colorectal screening, and discuss it during the appointment. We also:

  • Review our patients’ medical records during their birth months to ensure that they are up-to-date, and contact them if they need to schedule a screening.
  • Allow online self-referrals for colorectal cancer screenings for patients who are not exhibiting any gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Provide regular education for staff and patients on the importance of colorectal cancer screening.

What can you do?

If you are 50 years old or older and you have never been screened for colorectal cancer, or are due for a colorectal cancer screening, talk to your healthcare provider about which test is right for you. Once this has been determined, schedule your screening test as soon as possible.

If you have had a colorectal cancer screening at a civilian facility, please provide a copy of the results to your Primary Care Medical Home team for your medical record.
If you notice bright red or very dark blood in your stool, contact your healthcare provider.

Don't forget to keep your family's information up-to-date in DEERS.