Jennifer Kemp, MD, FACR, Chair of Quality at Diversified Radiology, contributed this piece.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States. Each March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month places a renewed focus on access to lifesaving screening. This is more important than ever because although the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer has steadily dropped in those ages 50 and older, the incidence and mortality for those younger than 49 continues to steadily increase. In fact, the incidence of rectal cancer is increasing at twice the rate as colon cancer in people under 50.

Routine screening saves lives and decreases mortality, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force recently lowered the screening age to start at 45. There are many types of screening options — all which offer variable sensitivity and specificity, variable degrees of patient inconvenience to include time off work and bowel preparation, as well as variable levels of risk to include anesthesia and risk of perforation. But, most importantly, what all of these screening tests have in common is the ability to save lives.

CT Colonography (CTC), also known as “virtual colonoscopy,” is a great option for patients who are on-the-go and prefer a less-invasive option. CTC is a type of screening offered by radiology via CT scan that does not require sedation and is over in minutes. Patients can resume daily activities immediately and can even drive themselves home or back to work from their appointment.

Radiologists can play a key role in increasing access to lifesaving screenings through a variety of opportunities. Here are three to help you get started:

  1. Seek appropriate training to learn to or enhance your interpretation of CTC. The American College of Radiology® (ACR®) offers a variety of free resources.
  2. Encourage patients and referring providers to discuss screening options. To help facilitate these conversations, the ACR Commission for Patient- and Family-Centered Care has released a new patient-friendly animation video on colon cancer screening. The animation is approximately one minute in length — consistent with the way many people seek information today and short enough to be posted on a variety of social media platforms. The video answers common questions patients may have about colorectal cancer screening and this enhanced knowledge will in turn empower patients to better participate in shared decision-making conversations with their healthcare providers. Please consider sharing this free resource with your patients and referring providers during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and beyond.
  3. If your facility offers CTC, get registered in the ACR My CT Colonography locator tool. Patients and referring providers can use this tool to quickly locate your practice and get screened.

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