Virtual colonoscopy can help jump-start the transition to screening Americans starting at age 45

Virtual colonoscopy (CT Colonography) - shown to increase colorectal cancer screening rates at a lower cost than standard colonoscopy - can help jump-start the transition to screening Americans starting at age 45 as new American Cancer Society Screening guidelines recommend.

Virtual colonoscopy is an American Cancer Society-recommended screening exam for those at average risk for the disease. It is as accurate as standard colonoscopy in most people and is far less invasive. A CT scanner uses high-tech, low-dose X-rays to generate 3-D, moving images of the colon that doctors examine for polyps and signs of cancer.

"Virtual colonoscopy does not require sedation. It is over in minutes. You can go back to daily activities and you don't need anyone to drive you home. This can appeal to the many Americans ages 45–50 that the new American Cancer Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines recommend to be screened," said Judy Yee, MD, FACR, chair of the American College of Radiology Colon Cancer Committee.

Thirty-seven states require insurance policies to cover virtual colonoscopy. Insurers who take part in federal exchanges are required by the Affordable Care Act to cover the exam without patient cost sharing. CIGNA, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and others cover the test irrespective of ACA requirements.

"Insurers should recognize the new American Cancer Society Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines and provide full coverage for virtual colonoscopy and the other ACS-recommended screening exams for beneficiaries ages 45 and older," said Yee.

Colorectal cancer deaths are declining, but shocking disparities remain. United States Latinos are more likely to die from the disease than those in many Central and South American countries. African Americans are far more likely to die from colorectal cancer than whites. Members of both groups are less likely to get screened. Their cancers are diagnosed at a later stage than whites.

"Virtual colonoscopy can help increase screening in underserved areas and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in colorectal cancer outcomes, but only if Americans have covered-access to all ACS-recommended screening exams through private insurers and ultimately Medicare," said Yee.

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