WASHINGTON, D.C.—The largest study of the efficacy of virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography) in Americans ages 65 and older, published online Feb. 23 in Radiology, has confirmed the “virtual" exam is comparably effective to standard colonoscopy at detecting colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps in older seniors. Due to these results, those of a landmark 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine involving patients ages 50 and older, and the multitude of trials with similar positive outcomes since, the Colon Cancer Alliance and American College of Radiology call on Medicare to cover seniors for virtual colonoscopy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 30,000 colorectal cancer deaths each year could be prevented if all those age 50 and older were screened regularly. However, roughly one-third of those who should be screened for colorectal cancer—the nation’s second leading cancer killer—never get tested. This is particularly true among minorities where screening rates are much lower. Studies at National Naval Medical Center facilities in Bethesda, MD, and San Diego have shown that availability of the virtual exam significantly boosted colorectal cancer screening rates—a vital step to saving more lives.
“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.