A Look Back on the 2009 Capitol Hill Briefing On Colorectal Cancer

Today marks the one year anniversary of when experts in colorectal cancer prevention gathered on Capitol Hill to discuss screening programs that work and how screening is contributing to reducing the incidence and death rates in the U.S. from the disease. With nationwide healthcare reform being written into law just yesterday let’s look back to last year and draw from some of the proceedings…

“This month we celebrate the 10th [11th as I post this] Anniversary of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In this last decade, public awareness campaigns and technologies like colonoscopy have saved lives,” said John L. Petrini, MD, FASGE, president, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, as he welcomed attendees to the briefing.

“In this next decade, there needs to be a national effort to close the gap and make it possible for more populations such as the uninsured, underinsured and low-income Americans to get screened. Based on scientific evidence, there is widespread agreement that regular screening starting at the age of 50, or younger for other at-risk populations, increases the probability that colorectal cancer can be prevented and treated successfully,” Petrini said.

During the summit Laura Seeff, MD, spoke about the CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Demonstration Program, whose goals are to support screening in response to sound science, the potential to save lives, and interest from states. To date, 4,000 men and women have been screened; 12 cancers diagnosed with treatment initiated; 450 individuals with pre-cancerous polyps identified and the polyps removed, representing 450 cancers potentially prevented. The CDC also provided technical assistance to 28 additional states; applying program development and evaluation findings to shape state-based programs.

Scott Tenner, MD, MPH, FACG, from the American College of Gastroenterology, noted that he was involved in a study demonstrating that “the Medicare program and private insurers alike, can save a approximately three dollars for every dollar spent on colonoscopy screening.” Dr. Tenner and colleagues at Maimonides Medical Center undertook a study involving a colorectal cancer screening program for uninsured patients.

A consecutive group of patients eligible for screening colonoscopy and with no insurance coverage were invited to undergo colonoscopy screening at no charge at the Maimonides Hospital Outpatient Department. They found that a screening program for colorectal cancer in a patient population averaging 10 years prior to Medicare eligibility would save almost three dollars for every dollar spent based on the number of polyps and cancers found among those screened. The investigators recommended that the Federal Government screen patients for colorectal cancer earlier than when they become eligible for Medicare. Doctors addressing insurance restrictions with the goal of prevention and ultimate health above all; truly commendable stuff.

Leave a Reply