Colon Cancer Screening Advocates Urge Medicare to Cover Virtual Exams

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The Colon Cancer Alliance and the American College of Radiology are both calling on Medicare to cover virtual colonoscopy procedures after a recent study showed they were just as good as standard colonoscopy.

The groups say a study published on-line this month in the journal Radiology, together with other recent studies, show that for seniors over 65 a virtual colonscopy was comparatively affective as traditional colon cancer screening.

A virtual colonoscopy uses low-dose x-rays to produce three-dimensional images of the colon rather than an invasive scope that’s traditionally used. They also cost less and do not require the patient be sedated.

Another landmark study in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine and several other trials showed similar results, according to an ACR press release.

Up to 30,000 colerectal cancer deaths each year could have been prevented with regular screening, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And about a third of those who should be screened for the nation’s second leading cancer killer never get tested.

Studies show virtual colonoscopies leads to greater rates of testing, which is one of the primary reasons the two groups are pressing Medicare to begin covering the procedure.

“The minimal invasiveness and lower cost of CT colonography can attract more seniors to be screened if Medicare will cover them for the exam. Many seniors, who might not get tested otherwise, can’t afford the added cost of paying for the exam themselves and may ultimately pay with their lives if Medicare does not provide coverage,” said Andrew Spiegel, Colon Cancer Alliance Chief Executive officer, based on the release.