Virtual colonoscopy effective screening tool for colorectal cancer in seniors

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A recent study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology has reconfirmed that virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) is an effective screening tool for colorectal cancer in seniors age 65 and older. In response to these results, those of a landmark 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, and those of a study published this year in Radiology, the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) and American College of Radiology (ACR) call upon Congress to pass H.R. 4165 — the CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act. Passage of this bill would cover Medicare beneficiaries for this life-saving exam.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 30,000 colorectal cancer deaths each year could be prevented if all those age 50 and older were screened regularly. However, roughly one-third of those who should be screened for colorectal cancer — the nation's second leading cancer killer — never get tested. This is particularly true among minorities where screening rates are much lower. Studies at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and Naval Medical Center in San Diego have shown that the availability of the virtual exam significantly boosted colorectal cancer screening rates — a vital step to saving more lives.

"Currently, many of America's seniors do not have access to virtual colonoscopy because it is not covered under Medicare. This is alarming considering the exam has the potential to boost screening rates and ultimately save lives. When President Obama was screened for colorectal cancer he chose to undergo a virtual colonoscopy, yet those Americans who rely upon Medicare do not have that choice. Congress has been given a chance to make a difference in the lives of many Americans. I hope lawmakers act now and support the passage of H.R. 4165," said Andrew Spiegel, chief executive officer of the Colon Cancer Alliance.

The virtual colonoscopy uses high-tech, low-dose X-rays to produce three-dimensional, moving images of the colon. The virtual exam is far less invasive than standard colonoscopy and doesn't require sedation. Afterward, people can go back to daily activities. The test is also safer for those Americans who are frail and have other medical problems.

"The American College of Radiology has made significant strides in the fight to make virtual colonoscopy a reality for America's seniors. The exam is now endorsed by the American Cancer Society as a recommended screening test, and major insurers, including CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, now cover it. The college encourages Congress and lawmakers to support Medicare coverage of virtual colonoscopy and pass H.R. 4165," said Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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