This post is contributed by Geoffrey D. Rubin, MD, FACR.
Patients and providers were excited when Medicare determined to cover seniors for low-dose CT lung cancer screening (LCS). Why not? Private insurers must cover the exams (with no copay) and LCS can save more lives than any cancer screening test in history. If only it were that simple.
Lung cancer screening is not as widely used as anticipated – in part because Medicare reimbursement is insufficient to support screening programs without cost sharing with non-imaging departments. Journals are publishing papers that selectively ignore National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) data, Lung-RADS® and other current screening protocols resulting in greatly overestimated “harms.” Just as with mammography, many primary care and family doctors may not be giving patients the correct information to make informed decisions.
These are the challenges that ACR members, staff and allied patient groups face in moving lung cancer screening forward. We are working to reduce false positives, educate lawmakers and regulators, and promote use of Lung-RADS® and the Lung Cancer Screening Registry. All of these are necessary to support launch of screening programs nationwide. And the stakes are high.
Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. Medicine can implement life-saving screening while improving the efficiency of that screening. The ACR and allied organizations will keep working to ensure access to safe, appropriate lung cancer screening and continue to keep you informed of any developments.
In the meantime, please visit the Lung Cancer Screening Resources section on the ACR site for resources to help you inform referring physicians and patients about lung cancer screening and improve the screening you may already be providing.
- Are you seeing an increase in CT lung cancer screening exams?
- Do you think that primary care and family physicians have enough information to hold meaningful conversations with patients?
- What positive steps have you taken to enhance CT lung cancer screening in your institution?
- What barriers do you face?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and join the discussion on Engage (login required).