Is There a Difference Between Diagnostic and Screening Colonoscopies?


Each year, millions of patients are impacted by colorectal cancer and its effects. When the condition is identified early, colon and rectal cancer can be treated with success, providing a high chance of survival. Routine tests for colon cancer allow physicians to screen for precancerous tissues in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, and monitor for any further concerns should a person’s odds of developing the disease end up being elevated.

While a large percentage of people realize what a colonoscopy is, not as many are familiar with the difference between a screening colonoscopy and a diagnostic colonoscopy. At Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, our experienced gastrointestinal (GI) specialists frequently conduct screening and diagnostic colonoscopies for adults throughout the DFW area. Keep reading to discover additional details surrounding these types of colonoscopy exams, when they may be needed, and how they can help safeguard your digestive and general health.

Who should have a screening colonoscopy?

The GI doctors at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants may recommend a screening colonoscopy to look for tissue abnormalities in the colon or rectum, growths (also called polyps), or other evidence that colorectal cancer could potentially develop. A screening colonoscopy, also known as a preventive colonoscopy, is commonly advised once every decade for adults age 45 and older who have no symptoms or indications and who are at average risk of developing colorectal cancer. These tests also establish initial reference data to which subsequent colonoscopies can be compared.

Typical candidates for a preventive colonoscopy commonly include individuals who have:

  • No history of growths or other abnormalities in the colon
  • No current or past GI diagnoses
  • No signs or symptoms of GI conditions
  • No personal history of colorectal cancer
  • No family history of colon or rectal cancer

When is a diagnostic colonoscopy needed?

Should any signs of premalignant or malignant areas be identified, our DFW gastroenterologists will likely recommend a diagnostic colonoscopy. These indications may include a history of GI issues (like colon polyps) or receiving a positive noninvasive screening for colon cancer, such as from Cologuard® home testing kits. Diagnostic colonoscopy procedures, additionally known as surveillance or follow-up colonoscopy tests, vary from screening colonoscopies since they are carried out when there is an elevated risk that cancer is likely to develop or when there is evidence that colon or rectal cancer may be present.

Candidates for a diagnostic colonoscopy test are generally patients with:

  • Past or present gastrointestinal symptoms
  • A history of gastrointestinal condition
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Positive colon and rectal cancer screening outcomes
  • A history of polyps or other tissue irregularities

What else should I know about screening vs. diagnostic colonoscopies?

Having colonoscopies is highly crucial for discovering and guarding against colon cancer. While a preventive colonoscopy and a surveillance colonoscopy are mainly conducted in a similar manner, they are carried out to address different needs. Insurance benefits for screening vs. diagnostic testing generally vary among policies and carriers. For this reason, it is important to review your insurance coverage and talk with your representative to learn more about your particular coverage amounts and benefits as they relate to colonoscopy procedures.

Find a DFW colonoscopy doctor near you

Undergoing periodic colonoscopies as recommended by a GI doctor is essential to maintaining your colon health and general wellness. Our colonoscopy doctors in DFW maintain a patient-focused approach to care and partner personally with each person to help ensure their unique health needs are met. Speak with our attentive team today to discover more or to schedule a colonoscopy consultation at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants.