ACR, MITA release statements about USPSTF draft colorectal cancer screening recommendations

The American College of Radiology (ACR) and Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) have both issued statements about the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) not fully endorsing CT colonography as a part of its draft colorectal cancer screening recommendations.

Both organizations expressed concern in their statements, and ACR said the decision could cause “countless unnecessary deaths.”

“This USPSTF draft recommendation could restrict access to a major tool to help achieve the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable goal of an 80 percent colorectal cancer screening rate by 2018,” Judy Yee, MD, chair of the ACR Colon Cancer Committee, said in the ACR statement. “As a result, thousands may continue to die each year that could be saved through more widespread screening enabled by CT colonography.”

As part of the Affordable Care Act, private insurers are required to completely cover exams given a “B” grade or higher. The USPSTF draft recommendations gave the following screening techniques an “A” grade for adults ages 50 to 75: fecal occult blood test and fecal immunochemical test (FIT), flexible sigmoidoscopy combined with FIT, and colonoscopy.

The ACR statement mentioned specific research from Abdominal Imaging that shows the benefits of screening Medicare patients with CT colonography instead of optical colonoscopy. It also pointed out that President Obama chose to have CT colonography in his first checkup as president.

In addition, the ACR said the USPSTF’s recommendation could cause a situation where elderly patients can’t afford CT colonography, even if they want it.

“This erratic USPSTF recommendation would force seniors who want a CT colonography to continue to pay for the exam out of pocket—on top of the annual Medicare premium. Many seniors, who might not get tested otherwise, can’t overcome this financial barrier to care and may ultimately pay with their lives,” Yee said in the statement.

In his organization’s statement, Patrick Hope, MITA executive director, said the USPSTF recommendations were “disappointing.”

“Colon cancer screening is already dramatically underutilized, and we believe greater acceptance of CT colonography would likely increase access to early detection and life-saving treatment,” Hope said. “It is our hope that upon review of our comments, USPSTF will endorse CT colonography for colon cancer screening.”

The ACR statement and MITA statement are both available in full online.