Can’t afford a colonoscopy?
In March 2008, American Cancer Society, the US Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer and the American College of Radiology jointly recommended that an AVERAGE RISK patient over the age of 50 have one of the following screening modalities for the detection of colon cancer:
1. Colonoscopy every 10 years OR
2. High Sensitivity Fecal Occult Blood Testing (HSFOBT) every year OR
3. Flexible sigmoidoscopy (an office-based procedure) every 5 years OR
4. CT colonography (aka virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years OR
5. Double contrast barium enema every 5 years
In October 2008, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended:
1. HSFOBT every year OR
2. Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, with HSFOBT in the intervening years OR
3. Colonoscopy every 10 years
What is HSFOBT?
This is a test for hidden blood in the stool. A stool specimen is collected by the patient at home, on three different days, and then sent to the lab or doctor’s office for analysis. If the test is positive, then a full colonoscopy is warranted to find the source of bleeding. In this case, the colonoscopy is then labeled “diagnostic”, instead of screening, and so insurance coverage may kick in to cover it (or not, depending on the type of insurance you have). The cost for the HSFOBT is usually between $50-100. See LesliesList- Testing Section to see the range of prices for a colonoscopy test.
What is Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (aka “Flex sig”)?
This is an office-based procedure in which the doctor does a sort of briefer version of a colonoscopy in the office. No sedation is required. Only the left part of the colon (the descending colon) is examined, but this is where 85% of colon cancers originate. Since there are no hospital fees, it is usually a significantly cheaper test, too. More in the $300-500 range, per some of my GI colleagues.
What is Double Contrast Barium Enema and CT Colonography?
These are tests that may also be used for colon cancer screening but are going to be comparable in cost to the colonoscopy.
In summary, if you can’t afford a colonoscopy, ask your doctor if one of these other more affordable options mentioned above might be right for you.