COVERAGE OF CT SCREENING FOR EARLY DETECTION OF LUNG CANCER
On July 29, 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) gave screening for those at high risk for lung cancer with low dose CT scans a “B” recommendation, its second highest approval rating. A high rating by USPSTF is a crucial initial step in making this screening an essential health benefit pursuant to the Affordable Care Act. It is also an important element in coverage decisions by private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
No single health policy decision will have a greater immediate impact on lung cancer survival than full and equitable deployment of lung cancer screening for those at high risk. Tens of thousands of lives a year are literally at stake.
The draft issued by USPSTF recommends CT screening for current and former smokers ages 55 to 80 with a history of smoking the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. The recommendation includes those who have quit within the past 15 years.
Screening those at known high risk now will accelerate research into risk factors tied to the increasing number of non-smoking related lung cancer, and into more effective diagnostic and treatment tools for all types of lung cancer.
We view the “B” rating as a welcome and well-warranted endorsement of lung cancer screening. We recognize that there are other high risk categories that fall outside of this recommendation and will be working in the weeks ahead to optimize this recommendation, consistent with the guidelines released by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
The draft recommendation will not be final until public comments submitted over the next four weeks are reviewed, a process we hope will be completed by the end of the year.
The entire lung cancer community is urged to send their comments to USPSTF at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm. Comments must be received on or before August 26, 2013.