By Sara Bondell - July 13, 2020
New recommendations for lung screening released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force would almost double the number of Americans eligible for the test.
The drafted guidelines propose lowering the age requirement for a lung cancer screening, which is a low-dose CT scan, from 55 to 50. They also recommend lowering the number of years a person has smoked an average of a pack a day from 30 to 20.
The changes would allow for more inclusion of diverse populations, specifically women and black Americans.
“I have lung cancer patients who smoked less than the required amount to be eligible for screening, especially female patients who tend to smoke less than men,” said Dr. Tawee Tanvetyanon, a medical oncologist in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Program. “In recent years, we have had an increasing number of female lung cancer patients. The expanded criteria will allow this population to be screened so their cancers can be picked up early.”
Lung cancer often has no symptoms, so it’s hard to detect early when there is a best chance for a cure. More than 60% of lung cancers are diagnosed after the disease has spread, leading to worse outcomes for patients. A study presented at the 2018 World Conference on Lung Cancer confirms lung cancer screening is the right choice for those at risk.
Dr. Matthew Schabath, a lung cancer researcher at Moffitt, says the new recommendations are more aligned with the inclusion criteria from recently published randomized clinical trials conducted in Europe, which have provided strong confirmation of lung cancer screening efficacy.
“Less than 30% of Americans diagnosed with lung cancer meet the original screening entry criteria,” said Schabath. “So, this is great news.”
Schabath hopes offering the lifesaving tool to more people will also increase the number of individuals who get screened. Less than 5% of those who are currently eligible are getting screened.
The new guidelines have not been finalized and are still open for public comment until August 3. If the guidelines are approved, insurance carriers would be mandated by law to adjust coverage according to the new recommendations.