An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.- Benjamin Franklin
Is there anything quite as succinct as a proverb from Ben Franklin? How does he have just the right words for every situation? This saying is just as applicable today as in Colonial times, and it applies perfectly to a colonoscopy. The price of an hour-long procedure is worth preventing a lifetime of medical bills from colon cancer.
Cost of Colon Cancer
Let’s take a look at what colon cancer is costing us. According to Fight Colorectal Cancer, the estimated annual national expenditure for colorectal cancer treatment is $14 billion, and inpatient hospital care for 80 percent of this cost. In 2010, Medicare spent about $7.4 billion on colon cancer treatment, which equals about 85 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s estimate for expenditures for individuals 65 and over.
Because colon cancer is a disease of older age, the costs of treating colon cancer are predicted to increase dramatically as our population gets older. A 2005 study found that colon cancer-related hospital stays can be twice as long and twice as expensive as the average hospital stay. Furthermore, hospital admissions among 50-year olds are projected to increase from 215,000 in 1992 to 471,000 in 2050.
Cost of a Colonoscopy
The cost of a colonoscopy is almost always less than the cost of treating colon cancer. Most screening colonoscopies are covered under private health care plans and Medicare, provided that individuals meet certain criteria. The Affordable Care Act recently announced new guidance that anesthesia costs are also covered, so a great percentage of colonoscopies are offered at no cost or minimal cost.
Screening also reduces the cost of treatment when a polyp or growth is discovered. A study from 1992 examined cancer care costs among members of an HMO and found that net costs of initial care for colon cancer averaged $7,002 at stage 0 and $11,624 at the local stage, compared to $13,367 at the regional stage and $15,276 at the distant stage. With the increased cost of treatment each year, the 2016 amounts will be significantly higher, but the principle remains the same: colorectal screening is cost-saving.
These are not just boring statistics; they equate to real people and real families whose lives can be spared from financial loss and loss of loved ones because of preventative screenings. If you are age 50 or older, talk to your physician about a referral for a colonoscopy. If you are at high risk, you may be eligible for a colonoscopy at 45 or even earlier (Source: Fight Colorectal Cancer).