How Does a Screening Colonoscopy Differ From a Diagnostic Colonoscopy?


Colorectal cancer impacts the health of millions of individuals each year. When detected early on, colon and rectal cancer can generally be treated effectively, leading to a high survival rate. Undergoing routine colorectal cancer testing allows medical specialists to screen for premalignant or irregular tissues in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, and monitor for any further issues should a person's chances of developing the disease prove to be greater.

Though the majority of adults understand the purpose of a colonoscopy, few may realize the difference between a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy. At San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates, our seasoned gastrointestinal (GI) doctors commonly conduct screening and diagnostic colonoscopies for San Antonio, TX adults. We encourage you to read on to learn more about these types of colonoscopy procedures, when they may be recommended, and how they can help protect your general and digestive health.

When is a screening colonoscopy recommended?

The GI specialists at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates typically advise a screening colonoscopy to look for abnormal tissues in the colon or rectum, growths (also called polyps), or other signs that cancer in the colon or rectum has the potential to form. A screening colonoscopy, also referred to as a preventive colonoscopy, is typically recommended on a ten-year basis for patients 45 years old and over who exhibit no symptoms and who have an average risk for colorectal cancer. These screening procedures also provide fundamental information to which all future colonoscopies can be compared.

Good candidates for a screening colonoscopy typically include people with:

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

What is considered a diagnostic colonoscopy?

Should any indications of premalignant or malignant growths be identified, our San Antonio, TX digestive health specialists will generally recommend a diagnostic colonoscopy exam. Such signs might include past concerns (such as colon polyps) or receiving a positive noninvasive screening for colon cancer, such as Cologuard® at-home testing. Diagnostic colonoscopies, also referred to as follow-up or surveillance colonoscopies, are different from screening colonoscopies since such procedures are provided when there is a greater probability of cancer development or if there is evidence that colorectal cancer might be present.

Ideal candidates for a follow-up colonoscopy test are generally patients having:

  • A history of gastrointestinal conditions
  • A history of polyps or other abnormal areas of tissue
  • Positive colorectal cancer screening results
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Previous or present gastrointestinal health symptoms

How else do screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy procedures differ?

Colonoscopy procedures are exceptionally critical for discovering and fending off the development of colorectal cancer. Even though a preventive colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy are often conducted in a similar fashion, the two procedures are performed in different scenarios. The insurance coverage amounts for screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopies often differ. Given this fact, it is recommended to review your insurance benefits and talk with your representative to learn details about your particular policy and coverage amounts for various colonoscopy procedures.

Consult a San Antonio, TX colonoscopy doctor near you

Undergoing periodic colonoscopy exams as recommended by a gastroenterologist is important to preserving your colon health and overall wellness. Our colonoscopy doctors in San Antonio, TX believe in a patient-driven model of care and partner closely with every patient to help make certain their digestive health concerns are addressed. Get in touch with our attentive team today for additional information or to schedule a colonoscopy consultation at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates.