During his first physical exam as the U.S. commander in chief, President Barack Obama underwent a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) in order to be screened for colorectal cancer.
News that the President chose to use virtual colonoscopy did not escape the notice of various professional organizations, such as the American College of Radiology (ACR), which has been calling for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover virtual colonoscopy for Medicare patients.
"CT colonography is a safe and effective, frontline colorectal cancer screening tool that can attract many more people to be screened for one of the nation's leading cancer killers. The President and his doctors have unparalleled access to the latest medical and scientific information. The fact that he opted for CTC should put to rest any empty arguments against the viability of CT colonography," said James H. Thrall, MD, chair of the ACR board of chancellors.
Judy Yee, MD, chair of the ACR’s Colon Cancer Committee, said that by using virtual colonoscopy, the President “has set an example that CTC provides a viable, effective and safe alternative to optical colonoscopy. Congress needs to act to require Medicare coverage for CT colonography and help minority and underserved populations gain access to this potentially life saving care.”
Weighing in on the other side of the issue, Philip O. Katz, president of the American College of Gastroenterology, fired off a letter to President's office saying that the 11,000 members of the association “are concerned that you missed an important opportunity to set an example of the power of prevention by taking the test proven to prevent colorectal cancer by polyp detection and removal.”
In his letter, Katz told the President that while a “virtual” exam Is better than no exam at all, “for most people, colorectal screening represents the best option” to detect and prevent colon cancer in the larger number of people.
Katz added that “there is no evidence that CT colonography prevents the development of colorectal cancer.” Meanwhile, the ACR, also reminded the President that CMS has denied virtual colonoscopy coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.
The President's doctors found him in "excellent health," with no sign of colon problems.