Compare: Cost of Polyp Removal vs. Colon Cancer Treatment
Polyp removal, also known as a polypectomy, is a non-surgical procedure performed during a colonoscopy to remove growths called polyps. Sometimes a doctor finds polyps while performing a routine screening colonoscopy and can remove them at that time. Other times, a doctor performs a diagnostic colonoscopy for the purpose of removing polyps that he or she already knows are there.
Almost always, the easiest and least costly way to treat polyps is to remove them as soon as possible. That’s because when a polyp is small and found early on, surgery is often not needed to remove it—and cancer can be avoided since polyps can become cancerous over time.
The good news is that U.S. law under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurers to cover the cost of polyp removal during screening colonoscopies. Yet even though this is the case, many people avoid having a colonoscopy and mistakenly believe that if polyps are found and removed, they will have to pay significant costs themselves. As a result, potentially harmful polyps may not be discovered and removed.
But avoiding a colonoscopy and related polypectomy for any reason is unwise. First, consider the types of treatments that are needed if a polyp is not removed and becomes cancerous:
- Surgery: When only surgery is performed, it is usually because the cancer is still in an early stage and contained inside the colon wall.
- Surgery + Chemotherapy: Often used together to remove cancer that has grown outside the colon wall; part of the colon may need to be removed as well as surrounding lymph nodes.
- Surgery + Chemotherapy + Radiation: Often needed to remove cancer that has spread throughout the body to organs outside the colon, such as the liver.
- Surgery + Chemotherapy + Radiation + Medication: Used when the cancer is not responding to other treatments.
Next, consider just some of the potential costs related to getting these treatments:
- Surgery: There are many types of surgeries that can be performed to remove colon cancer and one is a colonectomy. A 2015 report showed that the average cost of a colonectomy was $31,738 (Source: Drug Watch).
- Hospital Stays: A 2005 study found that colon cancer-related hospital stays can be twice as long and twice as expensive as an average hospital stay.
- Chemotherapy: Costs vary depending on where you receive your treatment, how long you need it and what your insurance policy covers. A recent study found that the most expensive cancer treatment was for colon cancer, which cost around $46,000 regardless of whether it was performed in a hospital outpatient clinic or doctor’s office (Source: Everyday Health).
- Radiation: Like chemotherapy, costs can vary. However, a recent study reported that the average cost for two months of radiation treatment in a doctor’s office was $23,305 and $24,150 in a hospital outpatient setting.
- Cancer Medications: It is common for new cancer drugs to be priced at $100,000 a year or more. Because of high costs, 25 percent of all cancer patients chose not to fill a prescription, according to a 2013 study (Source: NPR).
- Home Health Care: If you need help at home—even temporarily—the costs can be significant. Averaged nationally, the cost of a visit by a home health aide is $21 an hour (John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company).
- Other Costs: Examples of other costs are appointments with medical specialists, follow-up doctor appointments, and MRIs. There are also non-medical costs to factor in—such as time off from work without pay, childcare expenses and more.
So, what’s the cost of not treating a polyp? Potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the biggest cost of all could be your health—and even your life.
Cost of Colonoscopy is Less than Treating Colon Cancer
Cost of a Colonoscopy