Colorectal Cancer Screening

Christina Dodd 

Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, kills 655,000 people annually across the globe and is the third most common cause of cancer in the world today. In the United States alone 120,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed each year with 55,000 people dying from the disease each year. Colon cancer can be prevented if it is detected early or if benign tumors found in the colon develop into cancerous tumors if they are not treated properly. Screening is recommended to begin at the age of 50 by the American Cancer Society and tests include fecal occult blood tests, colonoscopies, and virtual colonoscopies. If you are diagnosed with colon cancer then doctors will perform surgery to treat the disease while also using chemotherapy and certain medications. A recent study released in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims that investing in advanced colorectal cancer screening programs will drop the cost of expensive chemotherapy treatments in the future. The study found that the savings could be double that of what some people pay now for chemotherapy.

Researchers working on the study claim that “Given the potential cost savings from screening, screening not only is desirable from the perspective of governments and insurance companies to reduce colorectal cancer incidence and mortality but also will help to contain the increasing costs for the management of colorectal cancer.”

The screening procedures used in the study include annual guaiac fecal occult blood testing, annual immunochemical fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy every five years, colonoscopy every 10 years and the combination of sigmoidoscopy every five years and annual guaiac fecal occult blood test. The study found that the patient’s lifetime average treatment savings were greater than the lifetime average screenings costs of the following:

  • Hemoccult II ($1,398 vs $859)
  • Immunochemical fecal occult blood test ($1,756 vs $1,565)
  • Sigmoidoscopy ($1,706 vs $1,575)
  • Sigmoidoscopy and Hemoccult II combined ($1,931 vs $1,878)
  • The total net costs of colonoscopy decreased per person from $1,317 to $296

The researchers working on this study wrote, “This analysis revealed that it takes 25 to 40 years after the start of a screening strategy before the treatment savings of that strategy outweigh its costs. This finding has important implications for insurance companies. If insurers anticipate that beneficiaries will not stay in their program for more than five years, they may be less inclined to cover a colorectal cancer screening program despite the long-term savings of such a program.”

Cancer is not only a serious and life-threatening disease, it is also a very expensive disease that can diminish a person’s finances immediately because of the amount of screenings, medications, and treatments that people will need to pay for either out of their own pocket or through their medical insurance. If the patient does not have medical insurance then he or she will find it difficult to pay for treatments such as chemotherapy. So, if patients continue to use regular screening procedures then the patients will be able to save a decent amount of money.