Medicare is proposing to pay for annual lung cancer screenings for beneficiaries at high risk for lung cancer. Evidence suggests that properly done CT scans can help doctors find tiny lung tumors in longtime smokers while the cancer can still be treated effectively.
To qualify, patients would have to first meet with a doctor to talk through the pros and cons of scans, which involve a low-dose of radiation.
Patients would have to be:
*Between the ages 55 and 74;
*Have no symptoms of lung disease;
*Have smoked the equivalent of 30 pack-years (or a pack a day for 30 years);
*And be a current smoker or have given it up in the past 15 years.
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. More than 159,000 Americans are expected to die from cancers of the lung and bronchus in 2014, according to the National Cancer Institute.
About 4.9 million people with Medicare coverage would meet the criteria for screening. The average annual cost of Medicare screening was estimated at $241 for each person screened.
The Medicare proposal “likely means that thousands of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to this important and potentially life-saving service,” said Dr. Richard Wender in a statement on the American Cancer Society’s news blog. “This would place Medicare policy in line with current guidelines and the recommendations of many interested advocacy and professional organizations, including the Society.”
For more information on this topic, go to NPR’s Medicare Poised to Cover CT Scans To Screen for Lung Cancer