Legislation Would Establish Lung Screening Program

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imageA combined force of Democrats and Republicans legislators on April 6 introduced the Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act of 2011, legislation that would include the creation and launch of a pilot lung screening program.

Presented in the U.S. Senate as S 752 and in the House of Representatives as HR 1394, the bills would , according to the text of the former, give rise to a "comprehensive response to reduce lung cancer mortality in a timely matter" by coordinating the efforts of several U.S. agencies. Already referred to committee, the legislation represents the latest effort to mount a nationwide response to lung cancer, which its sponsors note accounts for 28% of all cancer deaths—more than deaths breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined.

The coordinated program would address all aspects of lung cancer, including a five-year national CT screening demonstration program, according to the text of the legislation. Under the umbrella of the legislation, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, and Veterans Affairs would be required to coordinate a public health strategy to combat the disease.

In 2010, the National Cancer Institute released the first results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), a large-scale randomized national trial comparing the effects of low-dose CT screening and chest radiography in reducing lung cancer mortality. Among its findings, there were 20% fewer lung cancer deaths among study participants screened with CT. To be based initially on the NLST data, the five-year demonstration screening program would aim to identify optimal risk populations that would benefit from screening, as well as to conceive an effective, safe, equitable, and cost-efficient lung cancer screening and early disease management strategy. The program would also allow for continuous improvements in quality controls for the process and serve as a model for the integration of health information technology into the healthcare system.