New American Cancer Society Report Shows Medical Imaging Technologies Contribute to Declining U.S. Cancer Death Rate

01.17.13

MITA Calls for Medicare and Private Insurance Coverage of CT Colonography and Low-Dose Lung CT to Continue Reduction in Colon and Lung Cancer Deaths

Washington, D.C. – The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) today said the “Cancer Facts & Figures 2013” report released by the American Cancer Society illustrates how medical imaging technologies have improved early detection of cancers and also underscores that the cancer death rate in the United States will continue to decline if Medicare provides coverage for both computed tomographic (CT) colonography to detect colon cancer and low-dose CT lung imaging to detect lung cancer in at-risk populations.

“Medical imaging today is essential to diagnosing and treating a variety of cancers at a relatively low cost,” said Gail Rodriguez, Executive Director of MITA. “To continue this positive trend and further increase access to early disease detection, Medicare and insurers must cover imaging procedures, such as CT colonography and low-dose lung CT, which are medically proven to reduce mortality by improving early disease detection.”

The new “Cancer Facts & Figures 2013” report found that cancer death rates decreased from their peak of 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 173.1 per 100,000 in 2009. In particular, death rates continue to decline for lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers.

Recent data suggest that with the utilization of advanced medical imaging technologies, such as low-dose lung CT or CT colonography, death rates will continue to decline.

For example, the 2010 National Lung Screening Trial found that low-dose CT could reduce lung cancer deaths by at least 20 percent in a high-risk population of current and former smokers ages 55 to 74. Similarly, a study conducted at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2012 indicated that low-dose CT screening benefits individuals at increased risk for lung cancer, resulting in significantly fewer lung cancer deaths. Public and private insurers are also recognizing the value of low-dose lung CT: the Veterans Administration is beginning to provide this service and WellPoint now includes the scans as a covered benefit.

In July 2012, research led by Dr. Brooks Cash of National Naval Medical Center/Walter Reed Army Medical Center reaffirmed the value of CT colonography as an effective tool for detecting colorectal cancer in Medicare-eligible beneficiaries. The study, published in the July 2012 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology, evaluated 1,410 Medicare-eligible patients between 2004 and 2009 who underwent screening or surveillance CT colonography, and found that 14 percent were referred to get a colonoscopy based on the detection of 6 millimeter or greater polyps through CT colonography.

The benefits of offering CT colonography as an alternative to traditionally invasive colonoscopy extend far beyond the Medicare population. According to data previously collected by the National Navy Medical Center, when given the option, 40 percent of patients chose to undergo virtual colonoscopy, and 37 percent of patients who underwent colon cancer screening said they would not have been screened without virtual colonoscopy.

“The proof lies in the statistics: advanced medical imaging promotes early detection and more effective treatment, ultimately saving lives,” said Rodriguez. “It is critical that policymakers keep the evidence in mind when making future coverage decisions that will impact access to life-saving technologies.”

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The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), a division of NEMA, is the collective voice of medical imaging equipment, radiation therapy and radiopharmaceutical manufacturers, innovators and product developers. It represents companies whose sales comprise more than 90 percent of the global market for medical imaging technology. For more information, visit www.medicalimaging.org.