Baton Rouge doctor explains what you need to know about colonoscopies
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Millions of colonoscopies are performed in the U.S. each year, but a new study is leaving people wondering whether or not they should get the procedure.
“In south Louisiana, we have seen an increase in younger individuals with colon cancer even before the age of 45,” said Dr. Scott Daugherty, a Baton Rouge General colon and rectal surgeon. “I think it’s important for the population to understand that we really shouldn’t change the way we’re doing medicine necessarily based on this.”
He’s shedding light on a new European study that’s giving people the wrong idea about colonoscopies. This is the procedure where a doctor inserts a long, flexible tube into the rectum and a tiny video camera shows the inside of the colon.
Doctors look for things like precancerous polyps and cancerous growths. But Daugherty said the new European study suggests that colonoscopies did not decrease the risk of getting colon cancer or dying of colon cancer.
“The trial actually when you dive deep, only 40% of the patients actually went in for colonoscopies that were invited so it really diluted the numbers,” said Daugherty.
It showed an 18% risk of getting colon cancer, but when you start looking at if the invited patients got their colonoscopies, they had a 30% chance of reducing their risk of colon cancer and a 50% chance of reducing their risk of dying of colon cancer.
“I think these are scientists that are working with statistics and sometimes you can put numbers out that can be misleading,” said Daugherty.
This is why he’s driving home that these procedures do save lives. Colon cancer screenings should begin at 45, not 50 which is new.
If you’re nervous about getting a colonoscopy, there are other tests to detect colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about other options.
According to the Affordable Care Act, both private insurers and Medicare cover the costs of colorectal cancer screening tests. The law stipulates that there should be no out-of-pocket costs for patients, such as co-pays or deductibles, for these screening tests.
Medicare covers the following tests, generally starting at age 50:
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) once every 12 months.
Stool DNA test (Cologuard) every 3 years for people 50 to 85 years old who do not have symptoms of colorectal cancer and who do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 4 years, but not within 10 years of a previous colonoscopy.
- Once every 2 years for those at high risk (regardless of age)
- Once every 10 years for those who are at average risk
- 4 years after a flexible sigmoidoscopy for those who are at average risk
Double-contrast barium enema if a doctor determines that its screening value is equal to or better than flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy:
- Once every 2 years for those who are at high risk
- Once every 4 years for those who are at average risk
At this time, Medicare does not cover the cost of virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography).
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