March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and hopefully you’re feeling inspired to schedule a colon cancer screening for yourself or a loved one. But how do you know which screening method to choose? With all the options out there, it can be tempting to base your decision on convenience, affordability or comfort. But when it comes to something as important as preventing colon cancer, your ultimate concern should be efficiency and accuracy. In this department, there’s one test that beats them all: the colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy is considered the gold standard of colon cancer screening because it is the only test that views the entire length of the colon and has the ability to detect and remove polyps in the same procedure. Using a flexible lighted tube known as a colonoscope, your doctor will examine the inside of your colon to search for lesions or precancerous polyps. If polyps are detected, they can be removed immediately and sent to the lab for biopsy, all while you rest comfortably under sedation.
In addition to efficiency and effectiveness, there are several other factors that make the colonoscopy the preferable choice for colon cancer screening:
High Success Rates
In a 2011 report, German researchers found that patients who received a colonoscopy within the last 10 years lowered their risk of colon cancer by 77 percent (Source: Annals of Internal Medicine).
No Need for Additional Procedures
Because a colonoscopy can detect and remove polyps, it is essentially two procedures in one! Other screening methods such as virtual colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test and double-contrast barium enema can detect abnormalities in the colon but cannot treat them. If these tests produce a positive result, your doctor will most likely order a colonoscopy anyway, so why not skip a step and get a colonoscopy from the start?
Once you get past the day of bowl prep, your colonoscopy will be smooth sailing. You will be sedated throughout the procedure, which means you won’t have to endure any discomfort, anxiety or embarrassment.
Under the Affordable Care Act, screening colonoscopies are fully covered by Medicare and some private insurers, meaning you could receive your colonoscopy at little or no cost out-of-pocket. Medicare currently does not cover the cost of virtual colonoscopy, and double-contrast barium enema requires the beneficiary to pay 20 percent of the approved amount for services (Source: American Cancer Society).
Colon cancer is preventable and treatable, but you have to do your part by scheduling routine screenings. Talk to your doctor today about the right time for your screening colonoscopy. It’s a simple procedure that can have a profound effect on your health and well-being.