Standard Colonoscopy

Advantages:

  • This test is one of the most sensitive currently available.
  • It allows the doctor to view the rectum and the entire colon.
  • The doctor can perform a biopsy or polypectomy during the test if necessary.

Disadvantages:


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  • Even though this test is highly sensitive, it still may not detect all small polyps, nonpolypoid lesions, or cancers.
  • A thorough cleansing of the colon is required before the test.
  • Diet changes are needed before the test, and medications may need to be adjusted.
  • Some form of sedation is almost always used. As a result, the patient must have someone accompany them to the procedure and drive them home afterward, and they may not be able to work the day of the procedure.
  • There is a small risk of bleeding or of tearing or perforation of the lining of the colon; this risk increases with age, the presence of other health problems, and when polyps are removed.

Does health insurance pay for colorectal cancer screening?

The Affordable Care Act requires coverage of colorectal cancer screening tests by health plans that started on or after September 23, 2010. (For health plans that started before September 23, 2010, the rules about insurance coverage are covered by state laws, which vary, and by other federal laws.) 

People should check with their health insurance provider to determine their colorectal cancer screening coverage. Medicare covers several colorectal cancer screening tests for its beneficiaries. Specific information about Medicare benefits for colorectal cancer screening is available on the Medicare website.

What happens if a colorectal cancer screening test finds an abnormality?

If a screening test finds an abnormality, additional tests may be recommended. These tests may include x-rays of the gastrointestinal tract, a sigmoidoscopy, or, most often, a colonoscopy. If a polyp or tumor is found during a sigmoidoscopy, a biopsy or polypectomy may be performed during the test, and a colonoscopy may be recommended.

If a polyp or tumor is found during a standard colonoscopy, a biopsy or polypectomy may be performed during the test to determine whether cancer is present. If a polyp or tumor is detected during virtual colonoscopy, the patient will be referred for a standard colonoscopy.