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Screening Test Could End Racial Disparity in Colon Cancer Mortality

United States Congressman and Congressional Black Caucus member Danny Davis and several of his colleagues have submitted a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) urging Medicare coverage for a noninvasive screening procedure called CT colonography (commonly referred to as “virtual colonoscopy.”) The Congressman’s letter focuses on ethnic disparities in colon cancer screenings and how virtual colonoscopy has the potential to close the racial gap in screenings and save lives.


second letter from Congress also calling for Medicare coverage of virtual colonoscopy highlights a 70% increase in colorectal cancer screening rates reported by the National Naval Medical Center since they began offering virtual colonoscopy as a screening option to patients.


The latest data show colorectal cancer mortality rates are about 48 percent higher in African American men and women than in whites. This death-toll continues to mount from a disease that is almost always curable when detected early through screening and entirely preventable when polyps are identified and removed before they become cancerous.


Screening is the first and most important front against colorectal cancer deaths. The current standard method of screening (optical colonoscopy) requires anesthesia, is extremely invasive and carries a small risk of bowel perforation. This unpleasant option leads many to forgo screening altogether out of fear. That is why virtual colonoscopy, a noninvasive procedure which costs half as much as a traditional colonoscopy, takes half the time to perform and does not involve much of the discomfort of optical colonoscopy, has the potential to increase screening rates and save many lives.


CMS will make its decision about whether or not to cover virtual colonoscopy soon and the implications will reverberate throughout America, particularly in the African American community. Unfortunately, the New York Times got it wrong when it voiced its opinion in favor of maintaining the status quo and we urge you to weigh in on the right side of this important subject. 54 United States Congressmen and Congresswomen have already stated in writing that they believe America’s Medicare recipients deserve better.

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