Are Screening Colonoscopies Different From Diagnostic Colonoscopies?


Colorectal cancer affects the lives and health of millions of patients each year. If the condition is identified in the early stages, colon and rectal cancer can be treated effectively, providing a high chance of survival. Regular tests for colorectal cancer allow medical specialists to screen for precancerous or suspicious growths in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, and evaluate for any further issues should a patient's risk factors end up being greater.

While a large percentage of adults know the purpose of a colonoscopy is, few still realize the difference between a screening colonoscopy vs. a diagnostic colonoscopy. At Colorado Gastroenterology, our skilled gastroenterologists routinely carry out screening and diagnostic colonoscopies for Denver, CO individuals. Continue reading to learn important details concerning these types of colonoscopy procedures, when they might be recommended, and how they can help protect your digestive and general health.

What qualifies as a screening colonoscopy?

The gastrointestinal (GI) specialists at Colorado Gastroenterology generally advise having a screening colonoscopy to examine for abnormal tissues in the colon or rectum, growths (also called polyps), or other evidence that colorectal cancer is prone to arise. A screening colonoscopy, also called a preventive colonoscopy, is generally recommended on a ten-year basis for people age 45 and older who are asymptomatic (having no symptoms) and who have an average risk for colon or rectal cancer. These screenings also establish fundamental health information to which all future colonoscopy results can be compared.

Typical candidates for a screening colonoscopy procedure are those who have:

  • No family history of colon or rectal cancer
  • No current or past GI health diagnoses
  • No history of polyps or other irregularities in the colon
  • No indications of GI health issues
  • No personal history of colon or rectal cancer

Who is a candidate for a diagnostic colonoscopy?

Should any indications of precancerous or cancerous tissues be detected, our Denver, CO gastroenterologists will likely recommend having a diagnostic colonoscopy test. Such indications can include having previous concerns (such as colon polyps) or receiving a positive noninvasive screening for colon cancer, like Cologuard®, which is a home-based testing process. Diagnostic colonoscopy procedures, also referred to as surveillance or follow-up colonoscopies, are different from screening colonoscopies since such procedures are performed when there is a greater chance that cancer is likely to arise or if there are signs that colon cancer may have already developed.

Candidates for a diagnostic colonoscopy test are commonly those who have:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer
  • A history of colon polyps or other areas of irregular tissue
  • Positive colon and rectal cancer screening tests
  • Previous or present GI symptoms
  • A history of GI problems

What else should I know about diagnostic versus screening colonoscopies?

Colonoscopy procedures are very important for catching and protecting against the development of colon cancer. Even though a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy are often carried out in the same way, the tests are provided for different medical reasons. The amount insurance policies cover for screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy procedures often differs among plans and carriers. For this reason, it is essential to understand your insurance coverage and talk with your insurance company to learn details about your particular policy and benefits.

Meet with a colonoscopy doctor in Denver, CO

Having regular colonoscopy exams as recommended by a GI doctor is essential to maintaining your digestive health and overall wellness. Our Denver, CO colonoscopy doctors take a patient-focused approach to care and partner personally with each person to help ensure their unique digestive health needs are met. Contact our attentive team today for additional information or to schedule a colonoscopy consultation at Colorado Gastroenterology.