Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, 145,600 people will be diagnosed and 51,020 will die from colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the tissues of the colon and/or rectum. The colon and the rectum are both found in the lower part of the digestive system. They form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine (or large bowel).
The colon absorbs food and water and stores waste. The rectum is responsible for passing waste from the body.
If the cancer began in the colon, which is the first four to five feet of the large intestine, it may be referred to as colon cancer. If the cancer began in the rectum, which is the last several inches of the large intestine leading to the anus, it is called rectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer typically starts as a growth of tissue called a polyp. Colon cancer screening helps find growths in the colon that may or may not be cancer. It can be found early when it’s totally treatable.
Early and regular screening for colon cancer is not just a way to detect cancer, it can be a form of cancer prevention if polyps are discovered early before they become cancerous.
Talk to your health care provider about your screening options – it may save your life.
- Importance of colorectal cancer screening
It is recommended that people at average risk of colorectal cancer get regular screenings beginning between the ages of 45 and 50. It is recommended that screening continue to age 75; after age 75, the decision to screen is based on a person’s life expectancy, health status, other health conditions and prior screening results.
Routine screening of people age 86 or older is not recommended. It’s also recommended that people younger than age 50 with a family history of colon cancer or who have inflammatory bowel disease talk to their health care provider about when to begin screenings.
There are several different kinds of screening tests available, including colonoscopies and take-home tests. Talk to your health care provider, and together you can make the best decision on the type of screening that’s appropriate for you.
- Risks and symptoms
Due to changes in some risk factors, such as a decline in smoking, rates of new colorectal cancer cases and deaths among adults aged 50 years or older are decreasing in the U.S. However, cases among younger adults are increasing for reasons researchers have not determined.
Family history and older age are the major risk factors for colorectal cancer. Several other factors have been associated with increased risk, too, including excessive alcohol use, obesity, being physically inactive and cigarette smoking.
People with a history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease , also have a higher risk. Some inherited conditions, such as Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis, may also increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Early stages of colorectal cancer often have no symptoms. Some symptoms a person may experience, however, include blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or other stool issues, unexplained weight loss, regular episodes of belly pain, nausea or vomiting.
- What you need to know before your colonoscopy
Screening or diagnostic?
Most insurance plans cover screening colonoscopies with no out-of-pocket costs to you. However, if polyps are found, removed or biopsied during a screening colonoscopy your insurance will process the claim as a diagnostic colonoscopy and your screening benefit no longer applies.
A colonoscopy is generally considered screening when:
- There's no family history of cancer or polyps
- You are not experiencing symptoms before the procedure
- You don't have a personal history of cancer or polyps
- No polyps, diverticulosis, etc., is found during the procedure
A colonoscopy is generally considered diagnostic when:
- You have a personal history of cancer or polyps
- You have a family history of cancer or polyps (some insurances consider this high risk)
- You are experiencing symptoms before the procedure such as change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, etc.
- The screening procedure finds polyps, cancer, diverticulosis, etc.
Costs related to a diagnostic colonoscopy
Depending on your insurance, diagnostic colonoscopies generally have some out-of-pocket costs for you, such as deductibles, co-insurance and/or co-pays. You will be responsible for part of the fees for the gastroenterologist, anesthesiologist and the pathologist. You will also be responsible for a portion of the fees for the procedure room, the recovery room, drugs and IVs. Ultimately your out-of-pocket costs for a diagnostic colonoscopy will be determined by your insurance plan.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your insurance company prior to your procedure to verify your benefits and the different "out-of-pocket" costs for screening and diagnostic colonoscopies. For more information, call the OSF HealthCare Financial Clearance Center at (309) 683-6751 Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.