The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), the trade association representing the manufacturers of medical imaging equipment, radiopharmaceuticals, contrast media, and focused ultrasound therapeutic devices, has applauded the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) for establishing new colorectal cancer screening guidance that lowers the recommended age to begin screening for colon and rectal cancers from 50 to 45. 

The recommended screening strategies under the new guidance include CT colonography (CTC), also known as “virtual colonoscopy” every five years. The announcement finalizes draft recommendations issued by the USPSTF in October 2020, a move that was supported by MITA .

The Task Force recommendations align with the American Cancer Society’s guideline for colon cancer screening, which states, “people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45.” Under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. health insurance companies are required to cover, at no charge to the patient, any service the USPSTF recommends with sufficient evidence, regardless of the cost.

“Every year, colorectal cancer exacts a heavy toll on tens of thousands of Americans—including, increasingly, younger, generally more healthy patients who do not know they are at risk, a trend that has increased in recent years,” says Patrick Hope, executive director of MITA. “The new USPSTF guidance is a welcome update that will remove access obstacles for countless patients, ensuring more individuals are able to undergo screening for colon and rectal cancers earlier, when the disease is more treatable.” 

Prior to the updated guidance, colorectal cancer screening was not widely recommended for those under the age of 50, leading to a lack of awareness about the dangers of the disease among younger patient populations. In fact, over the last 10 years, incidence of colorectal cancer among those under the age of 50 roughly doubled; and by 2030, the disease is projected to increase significantly among younger Americans, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“This is an important step forward that will advance public health and disease awareness. We applaud the USPSTF for this new guidance and urge payers to swiftly update policies to ensure immediate access to critical colon and rectal cancer screening services for younger patients,” adds Hope.