Ask an Underwriter: Why should I care about my client’s colonoscopy?

Ask an Underwriter: Why should I care about my client’s colonoscopy?

It may be an uncomfortable topic, but you may want to ask your clients if they’ve ever had a colonoscopy. Why? Colonoscopies are important in screening and preventative measure for colorectal cancer. 

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer (excluding skin cancers) and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016, 134,490 people will be diagnosed and 49,190 people will die from this disease.*

The good news? When it’s discovered early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. In many cases, regular screening can prevent cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer. And if cancer is already present, earlier detection means a better chance at a longer life.


Screening tests include: 

  • Colonoscopy – Done with either a scope or special imaging (X-rays), these tests look at the structure of the colon to find any abnormal areas. Polyps found during these tests can be removed before they become cancerous, so these tests are preferred for screening. The American Cancer Society recommends individuals be screened with a colonoscopy at age 50, but people at higher risk for colorectal cancer might need to start screening earlier.

  • Stool Cards – This is a less invasive screening methods which tests for occult blood in the stool. Positive test results typically lead to a colonoscopy to fully investigate.  

  • Blood Testing – In combination with the above tests, another screening can also be done by obtaining a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) value through blood testing. Normal CEA level is less than 2.5 ng/ml; when CEA is greater than 5ng/ml, further investigation is often warranted. 

As we see with many cancers, survival rates for colorectal cancer have been progressively improving since the mid-1980s as a direct result of early detection, routine screening and increased public awareness. Currently there are more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States!*  


Underwriting Colorectal Cancers

For clients with colorectal cancers, insurability is largely dependent on the age at diagnosis, years since treatment, and other details. Those with early forms of cancer may be insurable with completion of successful treatment within one to two years, while those with more advanced stages could be postponed a full four years or be uninsurable. 

When evaluating someone with history of polyps and/or colon cancer, it’s important to know:

  • Results of colonoscopy performed as part of screening or a result of signs and symptoms
  • Results of all pathology reports to include staging
  • Results of colonoscopy performed as follow-up on any polyp(s) and/or cancer excision
  • Family history of colorectal cancer, age of diagnosis and relation to our client

With so many variables involved, we’ve created a. No matter the situation, we encourage you to ask questions and get all the facts. Have a specific question? Check out the resources below or drop me a line and we'll be happy to help.


Learn More


About the Author

Diane Fulk has been in the life insurance industry for more than 40 years, helping many families secure much needed life insurance coverage and peace of mind. She approaches each case, like each person, individually. She is certified in EKG interpretations, has passed all three of the Academy of Life Insurance Underwriting exams and many LOMA exams.