ASTRO Commends Medicare’s Proposed Decision to Cover Annual  Low-Dose CT Screening for High-Risk Lung Cancer Patients Aged 55–74


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Bruce G. Haffty, MD

ASTRO is pleased that CMS has weighed the evidence and decided in favor of annual screening for patients at highest risk for lung cancer, potentially reducing their lung cancer mortality by nearly 20%.

—Bruce G. Haffty, MD

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) praised the November 11, 2014, decision proposal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide coverage for annual lung cancer screening via low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening for those at highest-risk for lung cancer. 

According to ASTRO, the Proposed Decision Memo for Screening for Lung Cancer with Low Dose Computed Tomography confirms that there is sufficient evidence to warrant annual lung cancer screening for patients most at-risk for developing lung cancer. The Memo details the patient criteria for eligibility as follows: aged 55 to 74, asymptomatic, a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years, a current smoker or someone who has quit smoking within the last 15 years. CMS is accepting comments on the rule until December 10, 2014, and an effective date is expected in the final coverage decision. 

Could Save Thousands of Lives

“ASTRO is pleased that CMS has weighed the evidence and decided in favor of annual screening for patients at highest risk for lung cancer, potentially reducing their lung cancer mortality by nearly 20%,” said ASTRO Chair Bruce G. Haffty, MD, FASTRO. “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States, causing the death of more than 160,000 people each year, surpassing the number of deaths from breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Data also indicate that nearly 60% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among those who have never smoked or who have already quit smoking. With this highly effective, annual screening in place, we will be able to diagnose patients earlier when treatment can be most successful, which will save thousands of lives.”

CMS’s decision follows the United States Preventive Task Force’s December 2013 recommendation that low-dose CT is a Grade B screening, and which reviewed the results of four randomized clinical trials, including the National Cancer Institute’s National Lung Screening Trial. That study included more than 50,000 asymptomatic adults aged 55 to 75 who had at least a 30 pack-year history and found a 16% reduction in lung cancer mortality for those who received annual screening and thus, earlier treatment.

ASTRO’s membership includes nearly 11,000 physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health-care professionals who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. ■



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