Medicare has decided that it will cover low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) tests for lung cancer screening, giving seniors at high-risk for lung cancer access to care. According to numerous lung cancer experts and advocacy groups, LDCT has the potential to save more lives than any other type of cancer screening test.
Laurie Fenton Ambrose, Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) chief executive officer and president, said in a press release: “Medicare got this right. Screening coverage will help save thousands of seniors each year from the nation’s leading cancer killer. Screening programs can also help lower smoking rates. The process may even lead to better understanding of addiction as well as lung cancer in those who have never smoked.”
LDCT screening for lung cancer is the only test that has been proven to significantly reduce lung cancer-associated mortality. This year, over 220,000 individuals will be diagnosed with lung cancer and about 160,000 will die as a consequence of the disease. Lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than prostate, colon and breast cancers combined.
“This is a great day for those at high-risk for lung cancer and their families. Now, we can save tens of thousands of people each year from this terrible disease that now kills more women in wealthy countries than breast cancer,” noted Douglas E. Wood who is the former president of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
Medicare insurance will cover the exams for individuals aged between 55 and 77 years old with a 30-year history of smoking and that still smoke or have quit in the last 15 years. Candidates will have to fill out and submit clinical registries and follow-up data.
Furthermore, to efficiently respond to the screening demand, screening infrastructures will be reinforced by Medicare.
“Medicare coverage of CT lung cancer screening will help screening programs nationwide save lives. If older current and former smokers and their doctors decide that screening is warranted, patients should seek out an ACR lung cancer screening center. Together, we will complete the first major blow against lung cancer,” concluded Ella Kazerooni from the American College of Radiology Lung Cancer Screening Committee and the American College of Radiology Thoracic Imaging Panel.