FIT at 45: Here’s why colon cancer screenings are more important than ever during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the healthcare industry in more ways than one, including leaving lasting gaps in important annual preventative care practices, like cancer screenings.

Did you know colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among Americans? While it can affect anyone, there are groups of people who are at a higher risk and should be screened regularly.

To help you take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when routine screenings may be less accessible to some, we broke down everything you need to know about colon cancer, risk factors, and why regular screenings are more important than ever.

Are you or a loved one age 45 or older and interested in preventative colon cancer screening? Learn more about our non-invasive FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test, which allows you to collect your sample at home, send it to one of our CLIA-certified lab partners for testing, and receive your digital results in days.

How COVID-19 left gaps in preventative healthcare

It has now been over a year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and while many temporary shifts in society are slowly returning to “normal” as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, most people’s year-long stint at home has caused a break in important preventative care measures.

A recent study found that primary care visits declined by 60 percent by the end of 2020. While delaying check-ups and annual visits may have been necessary at the height of the pandemic, continuing to miss important screening dates and health visits can have long-term consequences, especially for groups with a higher risk for certain cancers and diseases.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in American adults, and the American Cancer Society estimates the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2021 will near 150,000 cases. With many colon cancer screenings having fallen short last year, it’s important to get back on track and resume preventative health screenings as soon as possible in 2021.

Here’s why colon cancer screenings are more important than ever during the time of COVID-19:

What is colon cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or rectal cancer, is the third most common cancer among both men and women in the U.S. It can start in the colon or the rectum, which is located at the digestive tract's lower end and can spread to other parts of the body when it is not detected and treated early. However, colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) that can be identified and removed before they turn into cancer using colon cancer screening technologies like a colonoscopy.

That’s why those who are at a higher risk for colon cancer should prioritize getting screened regularly.

While colorectal cancer does not always cause symptoms right away, it can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool
  • Lasting abdominal discomfort, including cramping, gas, and abdominal pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Note: Keep in mind that any of the abovementioned symptoms could be linked to a number of other underlying health issues, and are not exclusively a sign of cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider immediately.

Colon cancer risk factors

While colon cancer can affect any demographic, some risk factors are more common than others. Here are some common colon cancer risk factors to be aware of:

  • Age. The risk of colon cancer increases with age, and nearly 94% of new cases of colorectal cancer occur in participants 45+ years old. This represents the largest group of individuals recommended for screening.
  • Tobacco and alcohol. Colon cancer risk has been linked to cigarette smoking, and moderate to heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Diet. Colon cancer risk may be associated with a diet that’s high in red or processed meats, and low in fiber, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Physical activity levels and obesity. Low levels of physical activity and obesity are both known related risk factors for colon cancer.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease, may put you at a higher risk for colon cancer.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Those with type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Race and ethnicity. In the United States, Black communities face the highest risk of colon cancer compared to other racial groups. African Americans are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die from it than other racial and ethnic groups. Barriers to equal access to screening and care (such as insurance coverage or lack thereof) play key roles in this disparity.
  • Family history. If you have a family history of colon cancer and a blood relative who has been diagnosed, you’re more likely to develop the disease yourself. Your risk increases if more than one family member has had colon cancer.
  • Genetics. About 5% of individuals who develop colon cancer have inherited gene mutations that cause family cancer syndromes. The most common syndromes that are passed down through genetics and are linked to colon cancer are Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis.

How to screen for colon cancer

Although colon cancer is one of the most common cancers among Americans, over the past 30 years, the rate of colorectal cancer cases has more than doubled among adults younger than age 50. Preventative screening methods like our at-home FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test screen for the presence of blood in your stool and help detect colon cancer early when it can be best treated.

Ranging from invasive to non-invasive, there are a number of screening options that can help detect colon cancer early:


  • A procedure used to check the inside of the colon to __look for and remove polyps. __
  • Colonoscopies are required to be covered by health insurers and Medicare under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the out-of-pocket costs can be around $3,081 without insurance.

Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

  • FIT is a non-invasive screening test that measures the presence of blood in your stool. You collect your own sample at home using a brush to apply a smear of stool, or the stool water only, to a specific area of a card, depending on the product's instructions for use.
  • The Everlywell FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test costs about $49 without insurance.

Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) DNA

  • Requiring a prescription, this test combines the FIT with a test that detects altered DNA in the stool. During this non-invasive test, a stool sample is collected, added to a tube, and sent to a lab for testing.
  • If you don’t have insurance, or if your insurance won’t cover it, some estimates say the maximum cost of Cologuard is $649.

gFOBT Stool Test

  • A minimally invasive procedure that detects small amounts of blood in your stool.
  • You collect multiple samples over the course of three consecutive days.
  • Costs about $4 without insurance.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

  • During this invasive procedure, a short, thin, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and moved through the colon to check for polys inside the rectum, the lower third of the colon.
  • Can cost up to $2,000 without insurance.

Are you or a loved one age 45 or older, and interested in preventative colon cancer screening from home? Learn more about our FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test.

Because many of the screening methods, like colonoscopies, are performed at a clinic under the supervision of a health provider the COVID-19 pandemic has left many who would normally see their providers in person without the means to get screened. But regular screenings are important for finding and removing polyps that could later become cancerous as well as detecting colorectal cancer early so that it can be more effectively treated than later-stage cancer.

While visiting your healthcare provider may slowly become more accessible with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, virtual and/or remote screenings options, like the Everlywell FIT Colon Cancer Screening Test, are available to help you continue to check on your health.

Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More