At the present time, colon cancer is the number two cancer killer in the United States with 55,000 Americans dying each year. One hundred fifth-five thousand new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed annually, and the survival rate is only slightly higher than 50% across the board. If, however, colon cancer is detected early, it can be cured with surgical treatment. Even more importantly, if premalignant polyps are removed, up to 80% of colon cancer deaths can be prevented.
Who Should be Screened?
All average risk patients in the United States beginning at age 50. High risk patients should be individualized (see below).
What Type of Screening is Advised?
- Fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy for low-risk patients.
- Colonoscopy for high-risk patients.
Who is Considered a “High-Risk” Patient?
- Family history of colon cancer or polyps in a close relative (parent, sibling or child).
- Family history of familial polyposis.
- Personal history of colon or rectal cancer or previous polyp.
- Chronic inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Will My Insurance or Medicare Cover These Procedures?
Most insurance companies will cover these examinations because of the likelihood of preventing colon cancer in the future. In January of 1998, Medicare approved colo-rectal cancer screeing including colonoscopy for high risk patients.
If you would like further specific information mailed to you regarding endoscopic procedures, including the preparation involved for colon cleansing, please contact the Diagnostic Clinic of Houston Patient Liaison Office and the information will be mailed promptly.
Authored by: Margaret Bridges, M.D.
Back to Disease Menu