What Is the Difference Between a Diagnostic and a Screening Colonoscopy?


Colon and rectal cancer impacts the health and lives of millions of patients on an annual basis. If identified early on, colorectal cancer can often be treated successfully, leading to a high rate of survival. Regular colorectal cancer testing enables medical experts to look for precancerous areas in the colon (large intestine) and rectum, and monitor for any changes should a person’s chance of developing the disease prove to be high.

Even though the majority of patients know what a colonoscopy is, a smaller percentage realize the difference between a screening colonoscopy vs. a diagnostic colonoscopy procedure. At Adult Gastroenterology Associates, our experienced gastrointestinal (GI) doctors commonly complete screening and diagnostic colonoscopies for Tulsa, OK adults. Continue reading to discover further details about these different types of colonoscopy exams, when they may be advised, and how they can help maintain your digestive health and general wellness.

When is a screening colonoscopy needed?

At Adult Gastroenterology Associates, our GI specialists may advise a screening colonoscopy to evaluate for abnormalities in the colon or rectum, growths (also called polyps), or other indications that colorectal cancer has the probability to occur. A screening colonoscopy, also called a preventive colonoscopy, is generally recommended once every decade for individuals 45 years old and older who exhibit no signs or symptoms and who have an average chance of developing colon cancer. These screenings also serve as reference data to which any and all future colonoscopy results can be compared.

Ideal candidates for a screening colonoscopy test often include patients who exhibit:

  • No family history of colorectal cancer
  • No signs or symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions
  • No personal history of colon or rectal cancer
  • No history of growths or other irregularities in the colon
  • No current or previous gastrointestinal health diagnoses

What is the purpose of a diagnostic colonoscopy?

Should any indications of cancerous or precancerous tissues be identified, our Tulsa, OK gastroenterologists will most likely advise having a diagnostic colonoscopy test. These indications may include having previous areas of concern (such as colon polyps) or receiving positive results from a noninvasive screening for colon cancer, like Cologuard®, which is a home-based testing process. Diagnostic colonoscopy procedures, also known as surveillance or follow-up colonoscopy tests, are different from screening colonoscopies in that such tests are provided when there is a greater risk that cancer might develop or if there is evidence that colon cancer may be present.

Candidates for a surveillance colonoscopy are commonly those who have:

  • A history of digestive health issues
  • Previous or current GI symptoms
  • A history of colon polyps or other abnormal areas of tissue
  • Positive colon cancer screening outcomes
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer

What are other differences between screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy procedures?

Colonoscopies are extremely critical for detecting and avoiding the development of colorectal cancer. Though a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy are often carried out in the same way, the tests are conducted in different scenarios. Insurance coverage for screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy procedures frequently varies. Therefore, it is essential to understand your insurance policy and consult your carrier to learn details about your personal plan and benefits as they pertain to colonoscopy exams.

Find a Tulsa, OK colonoscopy doctor near you

Undergoing periodic colonoscopy exams as recommended by a GI physician is essential to maintaining your digestive wellness and overall health. Our colonoscopy doctors in Tulsa, OK maintain a patient-focused method of care and work personally with each patient to help ensure their unique gastrointestinal concerns are addressed. Speak with our friendly staff today to discover more or to set up a colonoscopy consultation at Adult Gastroenterology Associates.