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LCA Hosts Senate Briefing on Screening

On May 21, 2013, Lung Cancer Alliance sponsored a briefing in the US Senate--Lung Cancer Screening:  What’s At Stake Now?  LCA is enormously grateful to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and their staffs for assistance in convening this briefing. The briefing gave LCA an opportunity to state the case for Medicare and health insurance coverage of lung cancer screening and to urge the USPSTF to operate more efficiently and transparently and to stop delaying its recommendations on lung cancer screening.  The standing room only crowd, made of up Hill staff, health advocates and health care providers, heard from a panel moderated by Cheryl Healton, Dr. PH, President and CEO of Legacy for Health.  Dr. Healton set the tone for the event with an introduction of the issues surrounding lung cancer – comparing it to other public health catastrophes like HIV AIDS that are burdened by stigma, blame and shame.   The panel of national lung cancer experts included Christopher S. Lathan, MD, MS, MPH of Harvard, an oncologists who provided a general overview of lung cancer and also shared alarming information about the lung cancer disparities on vulnerable populations, including minorities and the poor.  Also on the panel was James L. Mulshine, MD, Vice Provost of Rush University in Chicago, who set forth the clear scientific validation for lung cancer screening;  Douglas E. Wood, MD of the University of Washington, who is also President of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and was Chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network that developed gold standard guidelines for lung cancer screening; William Mayfield, MD, of MedStar in Atlanta, Georgia, who helped develop the National Framework for Lung Cancer Screening Excellence and Continuum of Care; and Craig D. Shriver, MD COL USA, of the Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed Naval Medical Center.  The briefing opened with a personal account from lung cancer survivor Secretary Mineta, whose cancer was accidentally detected while he was being prepped for hernia surgery.  His story, and those of countless others, demonstrate the need for early detection of lung cancer, which could transform lung cancer from a lethal disease to a curable one. “I don’t think we should leave lung cancer detection to chance,” said Secretary Mineta, adding that coverage of lung cancer screening by Medicare and private health insurers is key to ensuring that everyone at risk has a fair and equitable opportunity to survive a lung cancer diagnosis.  The briefing closed with a request by Lung Cancer Alliance President and CEO Laurie Fenton Ambrose asking everyone in attendance to send a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius urging her to intervene and insist that USPSTF act with greater transparency, consistency and accountability.  Each day that USPSTF delays in making a recommendation on lung cancer screening, over 400 people die, about 200 of them unnecessarily.