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CT colonography: What to know about virtual colonoscopy Mark Cuban says saves time, money

CT colonography: What to know about virtual colonoscopy Mark Cuban says saves time, money

If you’re between the ages of 45 and 85, you should have a colorectal cancer screening routine in place, per the American Cancer Society (ACS). But a colonoscopy—in which your doctor uses a special camera to look inside your colon and rectum in search of abnormal growths called polyps—isn’t the only option to take charge of your gastrointestinal health.

You can choose from noninvasive screening methods: computed tomography (CT) colonography and/or a stool-based test. Billionaire entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban tells Fortune he enjoys the relatively low cost and simplicity of the former, also called virtual colonoscopy. In short, it’s an X-ray exam that doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia.

“I like getting CT versions because while they are not cheap, the cash price is far less expensive than the cash price of a traditional colonoscopy,” Cuban says via email, “allowing me to get one every couple years and the traditional every seven.” 

Cuban says the cash price for his most recent virtual colonoscopy was under $600. Procedure cost may vary by location. For example, in New York City’s 10038 ZIP code where Fortune is located, a virtual colonoscopy with contrast ranges from $496–$2,613 with a fair price of $778, according to Healthcare Bluebook. A traditional colonoscopy ranges from $997–$10,541 with a fair price of $2,712.

Because the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 45 for people at average risk of developing the disease, federal law requires Medicare and private health insurers to cover the costs. This means patients shouldn’t need to navigate copays or deductibles. However, the ACS notes the definition of a “screening” versus a “diagnostic” test may vary by insurer, and not all plans cover all forms of colorectal cancer screenings.

In addition, people at high risk of developing colorectal cancer may need screenings earlier and more often. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you and your insurer about how to get it covered. 

Dr. Arthur Winer, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, and Dr. Derek Ebner, a gastroenterology and hepatology neoplasia fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, explain your options for noninvasive colorectal cancer screenings below.

What is a virtual colonoscopy?

Whereas traditional colonoscopy involves…

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