We have reached an exciting and critical stage for the lung cancer community. In just a few days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will hold a public meeting to consider national coverage for lung cancer screening for high risk individuals who fall within these service populations. This meeting will allow experts in the field an opportunity to review evidence, present data, discuss technology updates, showcase responsible screening already underway in medical centers nationwide and make the case for full coverage for our seniors at high risk for this disease. This is the final step to the goal we have long been fighting for – government’s backing for this life-saving benefit.
I feel so privileged to have been invited by CMS to speak before the panel on behalf of the people -those behind the numbers and data – that stand to benefit most from this proven benefit. Their voices must be heard and not be over shadowed by debates about percentages and economic modeling. Too many lives hang in the balance.
We clearly have scientific evidence. The National Cancer Institute’s National Lung Screening Trial proved that CT screening works and that it leads to early diagnosis which is more treatable and curable. The final hurdle now is making sure nothing stands in the way of accessing this life-saving benefit for all who are at risk – and since the majority of lung cancers are diagnosed in people age 65 and older – this falls squarely on CMS to support for our seniors.
We also have best-practice care underway through our National Framework of Lung Screening Excellence and Continuum of Care. Upwards of nearly 180 hospital centers across the country have adopted these guiding principles and are showing that responsible care can be delivered in the real world – real time — to real people. Over half of these hospitals are community based – again proving that you don’t need to be a large academic medical center to screen those at risk responsibly. I say BRAVO to these medical teams who have not waited – debated – or showed continued indifference to the massive and tragic impact of this disease. They have rolled up their sleeves and are getting the life-saving job done – well and right – right now.
But beyond the life-saving benefit of screening consider how it will help us accelerate research into all aspects of the disease. Lung cancer screening will provide researchers with much greater access to early-stage tumors and other biomarker samples that we have needed for so long to help us look at lung cancer at its beginning – not later stage. This will advance research that ultimately could lead to finding cures for all types of lung cancer. This is a huge moment, certainly for the lung cancer community and for the larger cancer community. There is no downside to properly conducted lung cancer screening.
The stakes are high as we enter into the final decision period for CMS. Our seniors have a great deal at stake. But we have faced down every challenge thus far and have continued to outflank the naysayers. I pledge to you that we will never back down until this final hurdle is passed – that coverage and reimbursement is provided to our seniors at risk and that they have equitable access to responsible screening.
Together we can achieve the ultimate goal of saving lives and increasing our army of survivors!