FOX 47 - Health News

JANESVILLE (WMSN) -- When county airport maintenance worker Chet Waldhart turned 50, his doctor recommended a colonoscopy.

"We set everything up and I was ready to go," Waldhart said. "Two days before I was supposed to have it, I got a call from my nurse saying the insurance company had denied it, and wouldn't pay for it."

Waldhart's family had some money problems at the time, so he put the colonoscopy on hold. Four years later, he finally got the test, and learned he had stage IV colon cancer.

Waldhart had surgery to remove part of his colon, and 13 chemotherapy treatments.

"It wears you out, pretty bad toward the end," he said.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. -- 150,000 Americans are diagnosed every year.

Last year, colon cancer killed 900 people in Wisconsin.

"One of the things that makes colon cancer different from many forms of cancers is it takes a long time for colon cancer to form," said Dan Mulkerin, M.D., an oncologist at UW Carbone Cancer Center.

Dr. Mulkerin says routine screening save lives, "About 80 to 90 percent of colon cancers are completely preventable."

Colonoscopies reveal pre-cancerous polyps, which are subsequently removed, reducing the risk of cancer.

Still, many insurance companies don't cover the cost of routine tests, until a patient has symptoms, like blood in the stool. By then, it's often too late.

The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill in October of 2009 requiring insurance companies to cover colonoscopies, for everyone 50 or older, and younger people who are high risk (based on American Cancer Society guidelines).

However, when it got to the Assembly, lawmakers there stripped away that requirement. Instead, they want the state insurance commissioner to make the decision.

Waldhart, who testified before the legislature, says he hopes they reconsider. For now, his cancer is in check.

"It could come back at anytime. My doctor told me I will never be cancer-free. It's always going to be on my mind. I think about it everyday."

The American Cancer Society says it's still unclear whether the federal health care reform bill will cover colon screenings.

Colon cancer patient lobbies for free screenings

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