The Big Screen
Could a new test for colon cancer reduce fatalities? The discussion is politically charged, but a local health insurer sees the possibility of great benefits for patients.
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Though medical experts have been telling us for years that colon cancer is treatable and preventable, it ranks second in cancer fatalities in Delaware, for one main reason: “People aren’t doing the screening,” says gastroenterologist Amy Patrick.
Apprehension and misconceptions about the preparation and colonoscopy, one of the most common screening methods, may be the biggest factor in dismal screening rates. To combat them, the new Delaware Colon Health Center, owned by Mid-Atlantic GI Consultants, is offering a new technology: the virtual colonoscopy.
The virtual colonoscopy, or CT colonography, is considered a less invasive procedure than traditional colonoscopy. CT scans use specialized X-ray equipment and computers to produce images of the colon. The technology has been around for about 15 years, but recent advances have earned the endorsements of several national medical organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and the Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Screening, as a preferred test for colon cancer.
What makes the Delaware Colon Health Center approach different is that it integrates virtual colonoscopy with traditional colonoscopy, which requires inserting a long, flexible instrument attached to a camera through the patient’s rectum to examine the colon.
Physicians and other healthcare professionals disagree, however, about the comfort and effectiveness of the two procedures, though many say any test that could save someone’s life is good.
Mark Baumel, founder and CEO of Colon Health Centers of America and husband of Dr. Patrick, of Mid-Atlantic GI Consultants in Newark, is pleased to see Delaware as the first of what he hopes are many screening sites across the country.
“MAGIC (Mid-Atlantic GI Consultants) is the first community GI practice in the nation that is offering integrated colon screening as an option for their patients,” says Baumel. “The reason they are able to is because Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware has recognized the value of the virtual colonoscopy. They are the first major commercial payer in the nation to pay to cover screenings using virtual colonoscopies.”
Though most insurance companies will not cover a virtual colonoscopy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware was interested enough in the approach that it initiated a pilot program with Delaware Colon Health Center.
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