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MITA Calls on Medicare to Cover Virtual Colonoscopy Giving Seniors Access to a Tool that Saves Lives and Reduces Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screenings

Thu, 02/23/2012 - 2:46am
The Associated Press

New data from the largest study to date examining the efficacy of computed tomographic colonography (CTC) for Americans ages 65 and older proves that the "virtual colonoscopy" is comparably effective to standard colonoscopy in detecting colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps in Medicare-eligible aged beneficiaries. In light of this new data combined with the findings of the landmark 2008 CTC trial, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) today called on Medicare to expand seniors' access to a screening tool that saves lives by reimbursing physicians for CTC exams.

According to an American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) paper published online today in Radiology, CTC is comparable to conventional optical colonography for Americans ages 65 years and older and is consistent with data from the 2008 ACRIN trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing the test's accuracy for the broader 50 years of age and older population.

"CMS has indicated it was waiting for data proving CTC is as effective as traditional colonoscopy for Medicare beneficiaries," said Gail Rodriguez, Ph.D., executive director, MITA, which is supporting the American College of Radiology's filing to CMS to open a national coverage decision. "Now that there is definitive proof that a virtual colonoscopy is as effective as the optical exam for Medicare beneficiaries and it reduces barriers to colorectal cancer screenings, CMS should open a national coverage decision for CTC so that more American seniors have access to tools to diagnose colon cancer early when it's most treatable." According to the Mayo Clinic's principal investigator of the National CT Colonography Trial and the paper's primary author, C. Daniel Johnson, MD: "CT colonography is a perfectly viable colorectal cancer screening tool for the traditional Medicare age population. Wider availability made possible by Medicare coverage of CT colonography would attract more seniors to be screened for colorectal cancer - which is so successfully treated when detected early. Making CT colonography more accessible to seniors ultimately could save lives." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 30,000 colorectal cancer deaths each year could be prevented if all those ages 50 and older were screened regularly. Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States, despite having a 90 percent cure rate when detected early. Moreover, data has found that African Americans are far less likely to get colonoscopies than other populations and have a 48 percent higher mortality rate from colon cancer than white Americans.

Data collected by the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, demonstrates that access to CTC raises screening levels. According to Dr. Brooks Cash, Integrated Chief of Medicine and Staff Gastroenterologist at the National Naval Medical Center/Walter Reed Army Medical Center, when given the option, 40 percent of patients chose to undergo virtual colonoscopy. Moreover, 37 percent of patients who underwent colon cancer screening said they would not have been screened without virtual colonoscopy. A similar effect has been seen at the University of Wisconsin, where overall screening rates for colorectal cancer have more than doubled per quarter over a five-year period, following the introduction of virtual colonoscopy as an additional screening option.

The American Cancer Society recommends CT colonography as a screening test. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center named CTC an effective screening tool. CIGNA, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and other insurers all cover for virtual colonoscopy. Even President Obama chose a CTC over a traditional colonoscopy for his colorectal cancer screening exam two years ago.

"With conclusive evidence that CT colonography is as effective as the gold-standard optical test, data proving access to CTC reduces barriers to screening, private insurance companies already covering the exam, and President Obama choosing a virtual colonoscopy for his colorectal cancer screening, certainly Medicare officials must now recognize it's time to give America's seniors access to this life-saving screening tool," said Andrew Spiegel, CEO of Colon Cancer Alliance, the oldest and largest national patient advocacy organization dedicated to ending the suffering caused by colorectal cancer.

CT colonography uses high-tech, lose-dose X-rays to produce three-dimensional, moving images of the colon. CTC is far less invasive than the optical exam, and does not require sedation.

The ACRIN trial is the largest multi-center study to compare accuracy of CT colonography to conventional colonoscopy in patients 50 years of age and older. The National CT Colonography Trial recruited 2,600 participants ages 50 and over from 15 U.S. medical centers. The secondary analysis of the 65 years of age and over cohort compared data of 477 study participants.

The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), a division of the NEMA, is the collective voice of medical imaging equipment manufacturers, innovators, and product developers. For more information, visit www.medicalimaging.org .

SOURCE Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) -0- 02/23/2012 /Web Site: http://www.medicalimaging.org CO: Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) ST: District of Columbia IN: HEA HIN MTC MEQ SU: AVO SCZ TRI PRN -- DC58252 -- 0000 02/23/2012 12:30:00 EDT http://www.prnewswire.c

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