New screening recommendations from the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) recommend offering low-dose CT chest imaging as a lung cancer screening test in patients at high risk of lung cancer.
The recommendations on who should be offered the test closely follow the characteristics of the subjects in the 2010 National Cancer Institute (NCI) National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) study, which scientifically proved the mortality benefit of CT screening for long term heavy smokers at high risk for lung cancer.
The ACCP guidelines also call for the establishment of a registry to gather data that could help answer the large number of questions that now exist about the relative benefits and risks of screening as it is implemented.
The American College of Radiology itself urged caution last year when the American Cancer Society changed its recommendations to embrace lung cancer screening using CT scans. In a statement, it wrote: “The ACR stresses that guidelines and practice standards are needed, and must be appropriately implemented, to ensure that patients nationwide have access to uniform, quality care and can expect a similar life-saving benefit from these exams as demonstrated in clinical trials.”
The ACCP is the seventh national medical organization to endorse offering CT lung cancer screening to patients at high risk for lung cancer, and does add momentum to efforts to get more payors — and especially Medicare — to cover the cost of the test.
The Lung Cancer Alliance, which advocates for lung cancer patients, used the occasion of the release of the new ACCP guidelines to call on Washington again to consider funding CT lung cancer screening through Medicare and Medicaid.
“Medical professionals are doing their part and providing high quality responsible screening—some at little or no cost to help ease or eliminate barriers to access particularly for our most vulnerable populations,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, president and CEO of the Lung Cancer Alliance in its statement. “The federal government must now do the same. It is unconscionable that it has not acted with greater expediency given the strength of the scientific evidence and the magnitude of lung cancer’s impact.”