Midlands health notes

March 6, 2013 

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Ruling eases financial concern from colonoscopies

The federal government recently made a ruling that removes one hurdle for getting colonoscopies, and it came just in time for the March observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The Obama administration spelled out what the Affordable Care Act will consider essential health benefits that insurers must offer starting in 2014. The ruling included one important decision that should aid the battle against colorectal cancer.

Most insurers no longer will be allowed to require a co-pay when polyps are found and removed during a preventive colonoscopy screening. It’s long been standard practice to remove polyps found in a screening, but many insurance companies that paid full price for preventive screenings charged a co-pay if polyps were removed. Polyp removal was coded as a different procedure.

Those co-pays, often amounting to hundreds of dollars, aggravated gastroenterologists as much as their patients.

“If we were smart enough to know that someone did not have a polyp, we wouldn’t have done the colonoscopy,” said Dr. March Seabrook, a Columbia gastroenterologist.

In fact, polyps are found in about 30 percent of colonoscopies. One goal of the screening is to remove those polyps before they become cancerous, and testing of the polyps removed can detect the presence of cancer.

Dr. Frank Berger, director of the Center for Colon Cancer Research at the University of South Carolina, said patients who had to make co-pays told their friends, giving them another reason not to be tested. The colonoscopy itself is relatively painless, but the pre-visit procedure of emptying the digestive tract isn’t fun.

Screening is important, recommended every 10 years for people 50 and older and even earlier for those with family history of colon cancer. The second leading cause of cancer death in the state, colon cancer can be prevented with timely screenings.

Colorectal cancer rates have decreased in the state in recent years, but Berger thinks the rates can go down even more.

“We have been successful in getting people to talk about colon cancer, but getting them to act is still a challenge,” Berger said.

Lexington expo offers health screenings

A variety of simple health screenings will be offered at the annual Community Health & Safety Expo on Saturday in Lexington.

The event will be from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Rosenwald Community Learning Center, 420 Hendrix St. Free screenings will be available for vision, hearing dental, blood pressure, skin cancer and osteoporosis. Those who register in advance can be screened for diabetes and prostate cancer.

The expo also features informational exhibits from many health advocate groups.

To register for screenings: (803) 296-2273

Health fair slated for Sanders Middle School

A community health fair is scheduled for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 24 at W.G. Sanders Middle School, 3455 Pine Belt Road, Columbia.

Offerings will include health screenings, immunizations, blood pressure and glucose checks, as well as a variety of informational booths.

Information: (803) 231-7418 or cleighton@richlandone.org

Learn about back care over lunch

Lower back care is the subject of the March Lunch and Learn at Columbia Senior Center.

Josh Whitney, a physical therapist at the Human Performance and Rehabilitation Center of Columbia, will discuss back pain prevention and address back exercises for seniors. The event is set for March 14 at 11:30 a.m. at the Capital Senior Center, 1650 Park Circle, Columbia.

Participants bring their own lunch, and organizers provide a beverage and dessert. The monthly events are free and open to the public, but participants need to call ahead (so they’ll have enough beverages and desserts) at (803) 779-1971, ext. 12, or email info@CapitalSeniorCenter.com.

Compiled by Joey Holleman

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