(NewsUSA) – If you’re turning 50, you’re probably aware that it’s time to take your doctor seriously and schedule your annual colon cancer test. You also probably know that it can be an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience.
What you may not know is that it doesn’t have to be.
With a nod to technology, CT colonography, commonly known as a “virtual colonoscopy,” is a less invasive screening procedure than its traditional counterpart, one that can detect polyps the size of small blueberries, as well as cancer and other diseases.
While the federal government has now mandated that all private insurance companies cover virtual colonoscopies (with no co-pay to the patient), Medicare is still dragging its feet by denying coverage to its senior citizens.
Patient advocacy and medical groups are working to gain Medicare coverage for virtual colonoscopy.
“A third of those who should be screened for colorectal cancer (CRC) can’t have or won’t get a colonoscopy,” says Eric Hargis, Chief Executive Officer, Colon Cancer Alliance. “CT colonography increases screening rates where it is offered. Medicare coverage would provide seniors with insured access to an exam that may appeal to them. This would jump-start screening, catch more cancers early, and save more lives,” adds Hargis.
This refusal by Medicare to recognize CT colonography as a viable means of detecting colon cancer comes on the heels of a recent “A” grade by the United States Preventative Services Task Force and endorsement by the American Cancer Society.
“Colorectal cancer is almost always treatable if found early by screening, and the cost to screen and prevent the disease is exponentially less than to treat cancers not found until an advanced stage,” says Judy Yee, MD, Chair of the American College of Radiology Colon Cancer Committee.
Underscoring the need to offer this type of screening — especially to the elderly population — is a recent study in Abdominal Imaging that shows that screening Medicare patients with CT colongraphy would cost 29 percent less than with traditional colonoscopy and save up to $1.7 billion per screening cycle, which may be especially useful in detecting CRC in minorities, where screening rates are historically lower.
“We need to innovate to increase colorectal cancer screening rates,” says Dr. Yee. “Medicare virtual colonoscopy coverage provides an option that more seniors may choose. Early detection through increased screening saves lives, enables less extensive treatment and preserves quality of life.”
For more information, please visit RadiologyInfo.org.