Colonoscopy - Diagnostic

This is an examination of the large intestine (colon) using a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end.

This is an examination of the large intestine (colon) using a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end.

A colonoscopy is an examination of the large intestine (colon) using a thin, lighted tube with a camera on the end.

  • A diagnostic colonoscopy can be done to check the cause of symptoms that might be due to diseases of the colon and remove any abnormal tissue for testing. The most common biopsy of the colon involves the removal of a polyp or polyps.
  • Polyps are abnormal tissue or growths that are attached to the lining of the colon. Some colon polyps can be cancerous, others can be precancerous, while many are completely benign.
  • Polyps can be found at either a screening colonoscopy or a diagnostic colonoscopy.
  • This procedure can also reduce your risk of getting colon cancer by removing polyps before they become cancerous.

This care path is for a screening colonoscopy that meets the requirements of a “preventive” exam. Benefit plans typically provide coverage for a screening colonoscopy if you are age 50 or older. Please review your coverage documents and/or call the number on your health plan ID card for more information.

Depending on your circumstances, there are multiple ways to screen for colon cancer. They include checking for blood in your stool (fecal occult blood tests) or using an instrument to look at the lining of the colon and rectum (colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy). Your doctor may recommend a screening colonoscopy to check for polyps or cancer in your large intestines and rectum. This can reduce your chance of developing colon cancer and lead to the discovery of a cancer before it becomes advanced and produces symptoms.

  • Screening colonoscopies usually start at age 50. However, if you have a close family member who had colon cancer, or are otherwise at increased risk, you may need to start screening before you are 50.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider to find out when you should start colon cancer screening.

Before your colonoscopy, talk with your healthcare provide about your medical conditions and all medications you are taking. Do not forget over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.

  • Your healthcare provider may tell you to stop taking some medications before your procedure. This may include blood thinners or aspirin.
  • Follow the “bowel prep” instructions to help clean out your large intestine. These instructions tend to vary from doctor to doctor.
  • You need to be on a clear liquid diet for 1 to 3 days before the colonoscopy.
  • Make sure you have someone available to drive you home.
  • Some people need a medicine that relaxes them; a few people may need medication that puts them into a deep sleep. Ask about the advantages or disadvantages of both.

What if they find a polyp during a screening colonoscopy? Will I have to pay for the polyp removal?

  • If a polyp is found and removed during a screening colonoscopy, it is still considered a preventive service. Therefore, it should not result in any out of pocket costs.
  • However, if a polyp is found during a diagnostic colonoscopy (one that was done because you had symptoms or needed future surveillance after a previous colonoscopy), that may be subject to deductibles or copayments.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a diagnostic colonoscopy?

  • What is the reason for the test? What other screening options are there for colon cancer? (Once you have a polyp identified and removed, future colon cancer surveillance will be by colonoscopy.)
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of colonoscopy over other screening tests for colorectal cancer?
  • What kind of sedation or anesthesia will I have? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type? What are the possible side effects?
  • What are the possible complications? How will I feel after the test? How will I have to change my activity after the test?
  • When should I return for my next colonoscopy? (People who have polyps will need to be checked more frequently.)

Note: Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive services like a screening colonoscopy are not subject to deductibles or copayments when your health plan is a “non-grandfathered” plan and your colonoscopy is done by a network physician. However, a diagnostic colonoscopy to check on previously identified polyps is not a preventive service and is subject to deductibles and copayments.


Also known as:

Diagnostic Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy - Diagnostic
Colon Scan
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