An estimated 40% of all Americans will develop cancer sometime in their lives. Regular cancer screening tests can help catch cancer earlier when it is easier to treat, leading to better treatment outcomes. Understanding what cancer screening is and knowing how to arrange for a screening is an important first step.
Forward provides cancer screening for one flat fee
Forward’s doctor-led Cancer Prevention program includes screenings for lung, breast, colon, prostate and skin cancers, the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. Through genetic testing and cancer screenings, we assess your risk of developing cancer. Then, we act as your long-term doctor, developing a cancer prevention treatment program that focuses on making healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of developing cancer in the future. Our approach makes cancer screening simpler and more affordable while giving you the benefits of anytime, anywhere care with 24/7 access to your care team.
Forward provides one-on-one, personalized care without passing surprise fees and hidden costs on to you. We bill independently of your insurance, so you pay a flat monthly fee with no copays or deductibles to worry about.
Can you get a full screening for cancer?
A full screening typically includes a combination of screening tests to cover as many bases as possible. Depending on your age and your risk factors for cancer, your doctor may recommend any of the following:
The following blood tests are often a part of a complete cancer screening:
- Complete blood count (CBC) test assesses the number, size and maturity of platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. The test can be used to screen for cancers of the blood as well as for other medical conditions.
- Blood protein test (electrophoresis) detects certain immune system proteins that may indicate the presence of multiple myeloma, cancer that begins in blood plasma.
- Tumor marker tests detect chemicals that are produced by cancer cells. The prostate-specific antigen or PSA test assesses levels of a protein produced in the prostate as a way to screen for prostate cancer. Most other tumor marker tests are used to monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment rather than for cancer screening.
Genetic testing can help assess your risk of developing cancer based on variants present in your unique genetic makeup. An estimated 5 to 10% of all cancers may be due to these variants.
During a genetic test for cancer, your genes are analyzed for cancer susceptibility variants that may put you at an increased risk for developing one or more kinds of cancer, such as breast, pancreatic, colorectal and ovarian cancers. If genetic testing reveals you’re at an increased risk, your primary care provider may recommend that you undergo more frequent cancer screening tests.
How do I get tested for all cancers?
There is no all-inclusive test that covers all cancers. The best approach is to undergo regular cancer screenings for any forms of cancer that you are at elevated risk for.
Screening Recommendations by Cancer type
- Breast cancer
Most expert groups recommend that women begin undergoing breast cancer screening between age 45-50 if they are at average risk, and earlier if they are at high risk.
Breast cancer screening includes Mammograms: x-rays taken of the breast tissue to screen for breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
Expert groups suggest that women who are at average risk undergo regular cervical cancer screening from ages 21 to 65.
Common cervical cancer screening tests include the Pap test, which detects abnormal cells present in the cervix, and the HPV test, which tests for the Human papillomavirus, a viral infection that increases the risk of cervical cancer.
- Colorectal cancer
Men and women should begin undergoing screening tests between the ages of 45 and 50. Regular screening should then take place until around age 75.
A fecal immunochemical test (or FIT) is a test that indicates the presence of hidden blood in stool and is used for colorectal cancer screening. Stool DNA tests are also used to search for signs of cancerous colorectal tumors and precancerous polyps by analyzing the genetic markers present in a stool sample. Lastly, colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies are tests where a lighted tube with a camera is inserted into the anus to look for abnormalities that may indicate colorectal cancer.
- Lung cancer
Experts usually suggest that current and former heavy smokers begin lung cancer screening around age 50 and continue with regular screening tests until age 80. Even if you’ve quit smoking as far back as 15 years ago, your risk may be elevated.
Lung cancer screening could include a chest x-ray, low-dose helical computed tomography, which is a CT scan that involves taking pictures with an x-ray machine linked to a computer, or in some cases, an MRI.
- Skin cancer
Individuals with one or more risk factors for skin cancer may want to do regular skin cancer screenings. Risk factors include: light skin time, blond or red hair, skin that burns easily or develops freckles, a history of repeated sunburns, a family history of skin cancer, and having more than 50 moles.
Screening for skin cancer is usually a thorough visual examination by your doctor to look for any lesions or abnormalities. They may use a tool called a dermatoscope, which works like a magnifying lens to see your skin better. If your doctor finds a suspicious lesion or mole during a skin cancer screening, they may perform a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure where a sample of tissue is removed and then sent to a laboratory. There, a pathologist examines it under a microscope to look for cancerous cells.
How much does testing for cancer cost?
The costs of testing for cancer vary widely. How much you can expect to pay depends on whether or not you have health insurance, what specific tests are performed, where you live and your income.
Health insurance coverage for cancer screening tests
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most health insurance policies created after the implementation of the law to cover the cost of certain cancer screening tests, such as Pap tests for cervical cancer and colorectal cancer screening tests. However, plans created before the law went into effect may be grandfathered and not required to pay for these tests.
Also, any insurance plan may only cover the test a certain number of times within a given time frame or require you to meet specific criteria to qualify for coverage. Being in a certain age range and having a family history of cancer are two common requirements.
The best way to determine whether your health insurance plan will pay for a cancer screening test is to contact your insurance provider. They can tell you if the test is covered at all, and if it is, they can give you an idea of what your coinsurance or copay will be. Then, you can discuss the costs of the tests with your doctor to determine how much you can expect to pay out of pocket.
Medicare coverage for cancer screening tests
Medicare will usually cover the cost of specific screening tests for individuals who meet eligibility guidelines. Generally, Medicare will help pay for screening tests for cervical, colorectal, breast, lung and prostate cancers for those who qualify. Under Medicare rules, you may pay a copay or coinsurance for covered cancer screening.
Cancer screening tests for those without health insurance and low-income individuals
Some labs that process cancer screening tests offer self-pay programs for individuals who don’t have health insurance coverage. Generally, self-pay prices are slightly reduced compared to what laboratories charge insurance companies.
The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) makes certain cancer screening tests accessible to people who may otherwise not be able to afford them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sponsors this program that offers free and low-cost screening tests for breast and cervical cancers. To qualify, you must:
- Not have health insurance or have a plan that doesn’t cover the screening tests
- Earn an annual income of no more than 250% of the federal poverty level
- Be between the ages of 40 and 64 for breast cancer screening
- Be between the ages of 21 and 64 for cervical cancer screening
Women older or younger than the recommended age range may still qualify for free or low-cost testing if they are at high risk for breast or cervical cancer due to previous test results, a personal history of cancer, family history of cancer or another risk factor.
The CDC has a search tool to help you find cervical and breast cancer screening services that participate in the NBCCEDP.