Options for Colorectal Cancer Screening: Advantages and Disadvantages
posted by The Live Better Team | January 31, 2018
The good news is that colorectal cancer can be prevented, and it is highly curable when detected in its earliest stages. In order to prevent and detect colorectal cancer, however, it’s important to get regular screenings. Preventive screenings are a powerful weapon against cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
Most people should start screening at age 50. Some factors, like family history or the presence of other gastrointestinal conditions, may require you to start screening earlier. Talk with your doctor about when you should start getting screened.
Colonoscopy is the most effective method for detecting colorectal cancer and removing polyps. Gastroenterologists consider this method to be the gold standard, and research suggests colonoscopies can reduce colon cancer deaths by approximately 60 to 70 percent. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will examine the rectum and colon using a long, thin, lighted tube. If polyps are found during the procedure, they can also be removed.
Stool tests include fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) and stool DNA tests (FIT-DNA). These tests look for blood in the stool, as it can be an indicator of cancer. These tests are not as effective in preventing colorectal cancer deaths.
Similar to a colonoscopy, this test uses a thin, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope to examine the rectum and colon. Sigmoidoscopes are not long enough to allow your doctor to view all of the colon, however, and this test is not often used as a screening procedure in the United States.
This test uses CT imaging technology to produce detailed images of the colon. It is a non-invasive procedure and can be useful for people who do not want a test as invasive as a colonoscopy, but it cannot remove polyps if they are present. It is not yet known whether CT colonography is effective in reducing colorectal cancer deaths.
Most insurances cover the cost of colorectal cancer screening, but they may restrict the type of screenings that are covered. Talk with your insurance provider to determine your coverage of colorectal cancer screening and consider this when making screening decisions with your doctor. Colonoscopy is almost always the most recommended screening.
Patients with high deductible plans may find that they need to pay an out-of-pocket cost, but the cost of screening is well worth the savings in the future if your screening colonoscopy results in a diagnosis. In 2013, the average cost of stage 1 colorectal cancer was estimated to be $49,189 per patient, and it continually increased with each stage. Prevention, early detection and early treatment can eliminate or significantly reduce healthcare costs associated with colorectal cancer.
If you are over 50, or have a family history of colon cancer, visit your gastroenterologist to discuss screening.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.