Thursday, October 22, 2009

Snipping Polyps Reduces Colon Cancer Death Rates

According to the JAMA study upon which the NYTs article in my previous post was based, the increase in diagnoses of breast and prostate cancers - through screenings - has not led to a commensurate decrease in late-stage cancers.

Not so for colon cancer. Snipping polyps has been reducing colon cancer deaths rates. And boy are we snipping polyps. Free colonoscopies in Tennessee last weekend found polyps in half of those scoped:

Gastrointestinal Practice Issues National Challenge After Half Of Needy Patients Screened Show Polyps, Reuters

Of 48 people screened, 25 had polyps removed. That's an unusually high rate, although the sample wasn't random.

Dr. Gene Overholt, who partook in the screening:
"Everyone above the age of 50 should have a screening colonoscopy."
That's all well and good, but colonoscopies are expensive, averaging $3000 for those without insurance, and upwards of $1000 out-of-pocket for those with insurance. ("A Medicare patient at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center would pay $1,477, including deductibles and coinsurance.")

It was unlikely that those 48 uninsured and underinsured would have scraped up $3000 for the pleasure of having their colons inspected. But what are we as a society paying (not just in dollars) to care for late-stage cancers that might have been prevented? Keeping health insurance out of reach for millions seems like cutting off our nose to spite our face, seems penny wise and dollar foolish, seems ...

1 comment: said...

I'm overdue for a colonoscopy. Thanks for the reminder.

BTW, I'm among a small minority of patients who don't get anesthesia for a colonoscopy. The only discomfort is the severe bloated feeling because of the gas they pump into you so they have an open area for the instruments. But it's worth the discomfort in order to watch the monitor during the procedure, and it's really nice to not be groggy afterwards.

But that's just me. I also refuse pain shots for cavity fillings at the dentist office. But I leave with no drooling, puffy face.