The American College of Radiology (ACR) strongly urges Americans ages 50-and-older, particularly those with a family history of colorectal cancer, not to delay or forego recommended screening due to concerns raised by a June 1, New York Times article titled, "The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill."
Colorectal cancer remains one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and leading causes of cancer death in the U.S. While the ACR recognizes the need to conserve precious health care resources, the College also recognizes the fact that regular colorectal cancer screening saves lives.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in 2012 that the number of people 50 and older screened for colorectal cancer increased over the past decade and that colorectal cancer deaths are down over that span. However, the increase in screening and drop in deaths leveled off in recent years. More than 140,000 Americans annually are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Nearly 50,000 of them die because it is detected too late.
"There is absolutely no doubt that thousands of people are alive today, who otherwise would not be, as a direct result of regular colorectal cancer screening. The ACR agrees with the Times article's assessment that Americans need greater access to more colorectal cancer screening choices — including CT colonography — otherwise known as virtual colonoscopy. ACR is ready to work with Congress, Medicare and other stakeholders to make that happen," said Judy Yee, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Colon Cancer Committee.
Virtual colonoscopy is endorsed by the American Cancer Society as a recommended screening test. Multiple clinical trials, including a New England Journal of Medicine study, prove that virtual colonoscopy is comparably effective to standard colonoscopy in the overwhelming majority of Americans (all but high-risk patients). The virtual exam is only minimally invasive and doesn't require sedation or an anesthesiologist, which offers benefits to the healthcare system and to patients.
"Many major insurers — including CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield — cover CT colonography. However, Medicare does not cover the exam. Medicare coverage of CT colonography is encouraged by the ACR as it would make the less expensive test more widely available, preserve healthcare resources, attract many more people to be screened and ultimately save lives," said Yee.
American College of Radiology