Colon cancer coalition urges lawmakers to cover virtual colonoscopy

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A coalition of colorectal cancer societies and advocacy groups urged Congress to pass legislation covering CT colonography under Medicare, the latest development in a decades-long effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates. The CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act ( House Resolution 1298) was introduced in early March by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, and Danny Davis, D-Illinois.

Otherwise known as virtual colonoscopy, the less-invasive exam has been thoroughly established as accurate in several large-scale clinical trials, including a landmark 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by University of Wisconsin Professor Perry Pickhardt, MD

The preventable nature of colon cancer is known all too well in the imaging community, and a third of adults 50 years and older aren’t getting the recommended screening. Options such as virtual colonoscopy could prompt those resistant to traditional colonoscopies to undergo screening, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance.

“Medicare CT colonography coverage can jump-start screening by offering access to a less-invasive option that millions of screening age who choose not to be tested find more appealing,” said Michael Sapienza, President and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Colon Cancer Alliance, in a statement.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently assigned an “A” grade to virtual colonoscopy, forcing insurers to cover the co-pay costs and removing an important financial barrier to screening. However, Medicare still refuses to cover the screening, drastically reducing access to those who need it.

“CT Colonography is safe, effective and comparably accurate to colonoscopy in most people —including those  65 and older.  Former President Obama had this test. Medicare should follow the USPSTF’s lead and cover this exam,” said Judy Yee, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Colon Cancer Committee, in a statement.

Other groups joining their voices together in support of virtual colonoscopy include the Colon Cancer Coalition and the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

For more information on virtual colonoscopy, go to RadiologyInfo.org/VirtualCT.