News and Press

The  Center  for  Medicare  and  Medicaid  Services  (CMS)  is  now  considering  whether
Medicare should  cover  lung  cancer screening  for seniors  at  high risk  for the  disease.
Astonishingly,  rejecting scientific  evidence  that  lung  cancer screening saves  lives,  the
Medicare  Evidence  Development  &  Coverage  Advisory  Committee  (MEDCAC)
recommended against Medicare covering the cost of this procedure. The panel, however,
did not include members who specialize in lung cancer. Read our letter to view LungCAN’s position letter on Medicare coverage for lung cancer screening.

Experts Predict Tens of Thousands Lives Saved

NEW YORK—(AUGUST 15, 201 3) Lung Cancer Action Network (LungCAN) members unanimously endorse lung cancer screening recommendations released in draft form recently by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
“Tens of thousands of lives will be saved,” says Lung Cancer Alliance President and CEO Laurie Fenton-Ambrose. “Screening those at high risk now will dramatically make a difference and will open the door to much faster advances in research on all stages of lung cancer. This is a game changer.”

The Task Force recommends people between ages 55 and 79 with a minimum smoking history of 30 pack years get an annual low-dose CT scan. The recommendation applies to current smokers and former smokers who quit within the past 15 years. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the average number of packs smoked a day by the number of years smoked. One pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years equal 30 pack years.

Lung cancer screening has the potential to be the most effective cancer screening, in terms of lives saved per screening. For example, it takes approximately 900 mammograms of women between ages 50 to 65 to prevent one breast cancer death. That number is significantly higher in younger women. To prevent one cancer death in women ages 40-49, it would take approximately 1,900 mammograms. And for colorectal cancer, the estimate is that one death is prevented for every 500 people screened by colonoscopy. Evidence shows that to prevent one lung cancer death, it takes approximately 320 high-risk persons screened by low-dose CT scan, according to the Task Force.

LungCAN credits the contributions of many to bring this undertaking to fruition, including an army of researchers, advocates, volunteers, patients and many others, in addition to Task Force members. Lung cancer advocates have helped usher in and witnessed major advances in recent months, including the passing of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act and the National Lung Screening Trial results which contributed significantly to the Task Force’s recommendation.

While experts predict lung cancer screening may save 20,000 lives a year, many more lives remain at stake. LungCAN member organizations will not rest on these laurels. Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer, claiming more lives than breast, colorectal, prostate and pancreatic cancers combined. Early detection for those at high risk is a step in the right direction.

“This is a vital step in saving lives from lung cancer for the thousands of people who fit the high-risk profile,” said Andrea Ferris, President and Chairman of LUNGevity Foundation. “However, tens of thousands of people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year who do not fit into these parameters. We remain committed to finding a non-invasive test so that lung cancer can ultimately be found earlier in the full population affected.”
The recommendation, which is in draft form, is open for public comments through Aug. 26, 2013. The final version will incorporate revisions based on comments received. To comment on the recommendation, go to: www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/draftrec.htm. When finalized, under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance will cover the cost screening with no co pays for those identified as high risk.

Even though the radiation exposure is fairly low, lung cancer screening is not recommended for everyone because the cumulative exposure to radiation over the course of a screening program cannot be considered harmless, according to the Task Force. For those at high risk, however, the benefits far outweigh the risk.

About LungCAN

The Lung Cancer Action Network is a collective group of lung cancer organizations united to serve as a vehicle, filter, incubator for the exchange of ideas and information. LungCAN facilitates and enhances opportunities for collaboration with the focus on lung cancer. For more information about LungCAN, visit LungCAN.org.