Business

Cancer Check America shuts down; inspectors find no major violations but issue warning

A Hilton Head Island business that offered preventive medical imaging has ceased operations amid scrutiny and questions about its link to a similar company that ran afoul of regulators in Nevada and Colorado.

An inspection by South Carolina health officials, however, found no major violations, according to a Savannah radiology group that conducted the scans.

The state public health official who oversaw the inspection could not be reached for comment. A spokesman said, "We usually let those reports stand on their own and speak for themselves."

Sheila Haddad, owner of Cancer Check America, said the business is "re-grouping" and was uncertain of its future.

Cancer Check America rented an office at 460 William Hilton Parkway from Atlantic Radiology Associates of Savannah beginning in mid-February, offering free lung or heart CT scans in the hopes people would sign up for a package of examinations.

The business provided a screening tool for asymptomatic patients using computerized tomography scanning to detect and measure heart disease and lung, colon and other cancers, according to a brochure.

The company's lease expired in May and was not renewed, according to Kelly Emrick, CEO of Atlantic Radiology Associates, the group that operates Advanced Imaging.

Advanced Imaging performed scans for Cancer Check America after being prescribed by Dr. Paul Long.

Long said his office will continue to provided referrals for about 15 people who pre-paid for services through Cancer Check America, but did not say who would perform the work.

Emrick said Atlantic Radiology Associates had not been asked to honor contracts held by Cancer Check America patients but may agree to do so.

Emrick said the radiology group had no control over Cancer Check America and chose not to renew its lease because it did not "fit our business model."

MINOR VIOLATIONS FOUND

State public-health officials inspected Cancer Check America on May 16 after learning of its link to Heart Check America, which shut down in Denver and Las Vegas after coming under fire from regulators and patients.

Sheila Haddad and son David Haddad are listed as officers or managers on Heart Check America's corporate filings in various states, according to an investigation by the Las Vegas Sun and ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, independent, non-profit newsroom.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed Cancer Check was using Advanced Imaging to perform scans for its patients. As a result, Cancer Check is not required to be registered with the state, a spokesman said.

Instead, the investigation focused on Advanced Imaging and found several violations related to improper record keeping and safety protocol for operators.

The inspection found no equipment violations or examinations performed without a physician's order, despite claims by some clients who said they received scans from Cancer Check America without a doctor's referral or consultation beforehand.

South Carolina requires medical-imaging equipment to be used under the direction and supervision of a licensed practitioner and by prescription. Health officials say the regulations are intended to protect patients from unnecessary exposure to radiation.

State regulators, though, provided a warning in their May 26 inspection report, reminding Advanced Imaging not to expose clients to radiation for so-called "healing arts" unless authorized by a licensed practitioner.

Emrick said the violations cited are minor and have since been addressed.

They indicated Advanced Imaging:

  • Did not use a badge monitoring an X-ray operator's radiation exposure.
  • Had no documentation disclosing an employee's previous occupational exposure to radiation.
  • Failed to register equipment with the state and provide documentation of training and operator's written agreement to follow procedures.
  • Failed to display each operator's current certification and submit a survey and drawings showing proper radiation shielding.
  • Advanced Imaging has 60 days to correct the violations, according to the inspection report.

    Attempts Tuesday and Wednesday to reach Charles Ditmer, director of electronic products for the state Bureau of Radiological Health, were unsuccessful.

    SOME QUESTION SCREENING BENEFITSSome in the medical community say some preventative-screening operations market scans to those who don't need them and point to a lack of evidence that the benefits outweigh potential harm.

    Scans can result in false positives leading to unnecessary, invasive treatments, said Dr. Virginia Moyer, chairwoman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

    The independent panel of primary-care providers studies and makes recommendations for preventive health care, including screenings.

    "Essentially, no one recommends imaging for general screening," Moyer wrote in an email.

    A study of CT screening for people known to be at high risk for pancreatic cancer is under way but has not been completed, Moyer wrote.

    "Once you have a finding, most of the time, the only way to find out what it is would be highly invasive. Keep in mind that surgery itself has risks of complications and death," Moyer wrote. "So, there are down sides which are highly likely to outweigh the remote chance of benefit. At this point, no one other than these for-profit companies is recommending this. I think that alone is pretty telling."

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