Screening vs. Diagnostic Colonoscopies: How Do They Differ?


Colon and rectal cancer threatens the health and lives of millions of individuals each year. In cases where it's caught early, colon cancer can generally be treated effectively, carrying a high rate of survivability. Routine tests for colorectal cancer allow medical specialists to check for premalignant or suspicious tissues in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, and monitor for any changes should a person’s odds of developing the disease prove to be greater.

Even though the majority of individuals realize what a colonoscopy is, a smaller percentage are familiar with the difference between a screening colonoscopy vs. a diagnostic colonoscopy. At Arizona Digestive Health, our skilled gastroenterologists regularly provide screening and diagnostic colonoscopies for Phoenix, AZ adults. We invite you to keep reading to learn more information about these different types of colonoscopy exams, when they might be recommended, and how they can help protect your digestive health and wellness.

Who is a candidate for a screening colonoscopy?

Our gastrointestinal specialists at Arizona Digestive Health often suggest a screening colonoscopy to look for tissue irregularities in the colon or rectum, growths (also called polyps), or other evidence that colorectal cancer is prone to occur. A screening colonoscopy, also referred to as a preventive colonoscopy, is generally advised once every decade for those 45 years of age and over who exhibit no symptoms and who carry an average risk of developing colon cancer. These screening procedures also establish baseline information to which future colonoscopy results can be compared.

Candidates for a preventive colonoscopy often include people who exhibit:

  • No symptoms of GI health issues
  • No previous polyps or other abnormalities in the large intestine
  • No personal history of colon cancer
  • No previous or current GI diagnoses
  • No family history of colorectal cancer

What is considered a diagnostic colonoscopy?

Should any evidence of precancerous or cancerous tissues be discovered, our Phoenix, AZ gastrointestinal doctors will likely recommend a diagnostic colonoscopy. Such evidence may involve having previous concerns (such as colon polyps) or receiving positive results from a noninvasive screening for colon cancer, such as Cologuard® at-home testing. Diagnostic colonoscopy procedures, additionally known as follow-up or surveillance colonoscopies, vary from screening colonoscopies, as they are performed when there are stronger indications that cancer is likely to develop or when there are signs that colorectal cancer may be present.

Good candidates for follow-up colonoscopy procedures are frequently people who exhibit:

  • Positive colon and rectal cancer screening outcomes
  • A history of polyps or other abnormal areas of tissue
  • A personal history of colon cancer
  • A history of gastrointestinal condition
  • Previous or current GI symptoms

What else should I know about screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopies?

Colonoscopies are very crucial for detecting and fending off the development of colorectal cancer. Although a preventive colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy are generally conducted in a similar manner, these procedures are performed for varying reasons. Insurance benefits for screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopies frequently differ. For this reason, it's essential to review your insurance policy and talk with your insurance company to understand your personal benefits and coverage amounts for colonoscopy procedures.

Consult a Phoenix, AZ colonoscopy doctor near you

Having colonoscopies as suggested by a GI doctor is imperative to safeguarding your colorectal and overall health. Our Phoenix, AZ colonoscopy doctors provide a patient-centered method of care and partner one-on-one with every individual to help ensure their unique health concerns are addressed. Reach out to our knowledgeable staff today for more information or to arrange for a colonoscopy consultation at Arizona Digestive Health.