On July 29, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced its recommendation for screening high-risk patients for lung cancer with low-dose CT scans (LDCTs).
The recommendation will apply to a specific subset of asymptomatic high-risk patients who meet criteria outlined in the USPSTF report. These patients are 55 to 80 years old who have a 30 pack year or greater history of smoking and are either current smokers or have quit in the past 15 years. A “pack year” means that someone has smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for a year.
“This recommendation has the potential to cut U.S. lung cancer deaths by 20,000 per year, a huge advance in the fight against lung cancer,” said Inga Lennes, MD, MPH, director of the Lung Screening Clinic at the MGH Cancer Center. “The USPSTF recommendation is important because it will oblige Medicare, private insurers and government health programs to cover the entire cost of screening.”
The Cancer Center has been at the forefront of screening smokers for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. In October 2012, the Cancer Center opened a multidisciplinary lung screening clinic in collaboration with colleagues from Thoracic Imaging, Pulmonary Medicine and Thoracic Surgery. Objectives of the Lung Screening Clinic are to promote low-dose screening CT scans in this high-risk population and to monitor and manage nodules found incidentally on CT scans or through LDCT screening. Smoking cessation counseling is also available in this comprehensive clinic.
Currently, screening LDCTs are available for high-risk patients at select MGH Imaging locations. “The LDCT requires no preparation or injection, can be performed quickly and will be interpreted by dedicated thoracic radiologists who are experienced in diagnosing lung cancer,” said Jo-Anne Shepard, MD, director of Thoracic Imaging and Intervention in the Department of Radiology.
Physicians can order LDCT lung cancer screenings by visiting http://roe.partners.org or by calling 617-724-9729. At this time, these scans require an out-of-pocket payment of $350. In the future, insurance may cover the cost.
“Early detection saves lives,” said Lecia Sequist, MD, MPH, of the MGH Cancer Center. “This is a huge step forward for this large patient population of smokers or former smokers who are in this high-risk category and account for 85 percent of lung cancers in the United States.”
Read more articles from the 08/02/13 Hotline issue.