Midlands health notes

March 13, 2013 

Cancer fight ILLUS.jpg



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.

Bike ride, run help colon cancer efforts

The Colon Cancer Challenge, which includes a bike ride and an 8K run, is designed to raise awareness and funds for colon cancer screenings for the uninsured.

This year’s event, put together by Lexington Medical Center, is set for March 23, with bike rides of 65, 50 and 26 miles and the 8K run starting and ending at Dutch Fork High School, 1400 Old Tamah Road in Irmo.

Registration for the bike rides is $40 in advance, or $45 the day of the event. The 8K registration is $30 in advance or $35 the day of the event.

Information: www.LMCColonCancerChallenge.com

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

Compiled by Joey Holleman

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