Low Dose CT as a Screening Tool for Colon Cancer

Most cases of colorectal cancer are completely preventable – the problem is that most Americans who should be screened for it will not come in to be tested. The American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women age 50 or older need to undergo screening for colorectal cancer. If you do not want to have the more invasive test, called a colonoscopy, there is now a less invasive test called low dose CT colonography (CTC, also known as virtual colonoscopy) that is equally effective at spotting the growths in the colon that could go on to become cancer. CT colonography is endorsed by the American Cancer Society as a valid test for screening for colorectal cancer.

The increasing acceptance of CTC as a valid tool to help prevent and diagnose colorectal cancer is evident in the numbers of cases being performed worldwide, including in the United States. The presentation on November 29, 2010, by Richard L. Duszak, Jr., MD at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meeting highlights that CT colonography is a valuable test that doctors and patients want to use in the fight against colorectal cancer. In looking at the growth of the number of CTCs performed in Medicare beneficiaries, it was found that there was a 195 percent increase from 2004 to 2008. This was a much larger increase than the use of routine abdominal CT scans. Importantly it should be noted that CTC is a low radiation dose test and in particular it is of lowest risk in adults age 50 and older who need to come in for colorectal cancer testing.

Reimbursement for CTC is also on the rise so you should check with your doctor’s office and health insurance if you want this test. In particular, this study found that most diagnostic CTC tests are now reimbursable with evidence that coverage continues to expand every year. President Obama, who has access to the best medical care in this country, chose to undergo CT colonography for his first colorectal cancer screening early in 2010.