Diagnostic vs. Screening Colonoscopies: How Are They Different?


Colorectal cancer affects the lives of millions of patients annually. In cases where it's identified in the early stages, colon or rectal cancer can often be treated with success, carrying a high rate of survivability. Regular colorectal cancer testing allows physicians to look for precancerous or irregular areas in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, and evaluate for any further issues should a person’s likelihood of developing the condition end up being high.

Though the majority of individuals have an idea of what a colonoscopy is, a lesser number know the difference between a screening colonoscopy vs. a diagnostic colonoscopy procedure At GastroArkansas, our board-certified gastroenterologists conduct diagnostic and screening colonoscopies for Little Rock, AR patients. We invite you to read on for further details surrounding these types of colonoscopy exams, when they may be advised, and how they might help protect your digestive and general health.

When is a screening colonoscopy recommended?

At GastroArkansas, our gastrointestinal (GI) specialists generally suggest a screening colonoscopy to check for tissue irregularities in the colon or rectum, polyps (growths), or other indications that colon or rectal has the probability to develop. A screening colonoscopy, also known as a preventive colonoscopy, is commonly recommended on a ten-year basis for patients 45 years old and over who show no signs or symptoms and who are at average risk for colon cancer. Such screenings also serve as baseline information to which all subsequent colonoscopy results can be compared.

Ideal candidates for a preventive colonoscopy exam generally include individuals with:

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

About diagnostic colonoscopies

Should any evidence of premalignant or malignant growths be detected, our GI doctors in Little Rock, AR will typically advise having a diagnostic colonoscopy test. This evidence can involve having a history of concerns (such as growths in the colon) or having positive results from a noninvasive colon cancer screening, such as Cologuard®, a home-based testing product. Diagnostic colonoscopy procedures, also referred to as follow-up or surveillance colonoscopy tests, vary from screening colonoscopies in that such tests are carried out when there is a greater probability that cancer might arise or when there are signs that colon or rectal cancer may have developed.

Ideal candidates for a diagnostic colonoscopy test are commonly individuals with:

  • A history of colon polyps or other tissue irregularities
  • Previous or present gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Positive colon and rectal cancer screening tests
  • A history of digestive health condition
  • A personal history of colon or rectal cancer

What are other variations between screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy exams?

Colonoscopy procedures are immensely vital for catching and fending off colon or rectal cancer. Though a screening colonoscopy and a follow-up colonoscopy are often carried out in the same way, the tests are conducted for separate reasons. The amount insurance plans pay for screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopy procedures generally differs. Given this fact, it is essential to review your insurance plan and speak with your representative to learn more about your individual coverage amounts and benefits.

Speak with a colonoscopy doctor in Little Rock, AR

Undergoing regular colonoscopies as advised by a GI specialist is vital to safeguarding your colorectal health and general wellness. Our Little Rock, AR colonoscopy doctors believe in a patient-centric method of care and partner personally with each patient to help make certain their gastrointestinal concerns are addressed. Reach out to our caring staff today for further details or to set up a consultation for a colonoscopy at GastroArkansas.