Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States. It is also preventable. How? By having a colon screening and removing precancerous lesions, also known as polyps, from the colon before they can become malignant. Although it is very rare to find a cancer in a person not having symptoms, polyps are present in 25% of women and 30% of men. So yes, you can have polyps and never know it. The goal of a colonoscopy program is to keep the polyps out of the colon from age 50 (earlier in patients at increased risk) until roughly 80. Eighty? Well, at some point the benefit of doing the procedure decreases and the risk increases. That point varies from person to person and the final decision is between you and your doctor.
Are there other less invasive ways to identify polyps? There are other screening tests but none that are as accurate. One benefit of colonoscopy is when the polyps are found, they can usually be removed during the procedure.
Does insurance pay for screening colonoscopy? Although the health insurance landscape is ever changing, most insurances cover screening colonoscopy with little or no out-of-pocket expense. It is best to call your insurance company and find out the specifics of your plan.
For a screening colonoscopy, you should have a referral from your primary care physician as they will assist in determining if you meet the conditions for screening. Remember screening is something that is done when you are not having any problems such bleeding, weight loss, or other change in bowel habits. In cases where these problems exist, it is not a screening procedure, it is a diagnostic procedure. This is important for you to know. Although screening studies are covered at little to no out-of-pocket expense to you, diagnostic studies are not.
Abbeville Area Medical Center can provide you either a screening or diagnostic colonoscopy utilizing the most current equipment and technology available. If you are 50 years of age or older, a screening colonoscopy is a procedure you should consider and discuss with your physician. Even if you elect not to have a colonoscopy, please talk to your primary care physician and engage in some form of screening for colon cancer. It would be a shame to die of a preventable disease.