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Decision by Medicare's CMS to Deny Coverage for 'Virtual' Colon Cancer Tests Underscores Lack of Evidence on Cancer Prevention
Date:5/13/2009

BETHESDA, Md., May 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to deny payment for CT colonography, also known as "virtual" colonoscopy, a radiographic examination of the abdomen, underscores the lack of sufficient evidence on the test's potential as an appropriate option for the screening and prevention of colorectal cancer.

"One of the primary issues identified by CMS is that patients who have polyps identified by CT scan of the abdomen will still have to undergo complete colonoscopy," explained Eamonn Quigley, M.D., FACG, President of the American College of Gastroenterology. The American College of Gastroenterology and the Multi-Society Task Force Guideline on Colorectal Cancer in recent guidelines have stated clear preferences for tests which prevent colorectal cancer.

The American College of Gastroenterology has long supported the lifesaving potential of screening by colonoscopy specifically because it is widely available, safe and effective. "There is no evidence that any radiographic test, including CT colonography, prevents the development of colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is one of the most powerful preventive tools in clinical medicine because of its excellent sensitivity in detecting polyps and its potential for removing them and breaking the sequence of polyp to cancer in a single diagnostic and therapeutic intervention," said Dr. Quigley.

Physician experts from the American College of Gastroenterology believe consumers should recognize that CT colonography does not currently represent a painless or risk-free procedure, nor does it eliminate the need for bowel cleansing which many patients report as a barrier to screening. There is also evidence that due to the insertion of a tube in the rectum and insufflation of the abdomen with air or gas, the patients, who are not sedated and awake, tend to feel disco
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SOURCE American College of Gastroenterology
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