Lung Cancer Survivor says Medicare Decision to Cover Lung Cancer Screenings will Save Lives

February 06, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. — David Devine started smoking when he was 12 years old. When he was 62, he decided it was time to quit. Devine used Chantix, a smoking cessation medication used to fight nicotine addiction. After a few months when he felt no better than before he quit, Devine wondered if something was wrong.

The former smoker saw an article in the paper that mentioned Moffitt Cancer Center’s low-dose computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screenings and decided to make an appointment.

“The experience was no different than getting an X-ray. It was short and painless. When I found out I had stage 3 lung cancer, I wasn’t upset, I just thought about all of the times I had tried to quit smoking and didn’t. Thankfully, I was able to begin treatment and now I’m cancer-free,” explained Devine.

If you have ever smoked, a lung cancer screening at Moffitt could save your life. Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final decision memo that will require Medicare to cover low-dose computed tomography (CT) lung cancer screening for high-risk beneficiaries between ages 55 and 77, that have a smoking history of 30 pack years (one pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years) and have a written order from a physician or qualified practitioner.

“Patients whose tumors are caught early often have better outcomes. Now we have a screening test that can save lives and will be accessible to those at high risk for developing lung cancer,” said Scott J. Antonia, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Thoracic Oncology Department at Moffitt. “At Moffitt, our comprehensive lung screening program evaluates each CT screening and develops a personalized treatment plan as needed.”

Moffitt is home to a comprehensive lung cancer screening program, which includes a team of oncologists from a variety of specialties. As a result, Moffitt has been named a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance. The designation lists Moffitt as one of 250 centers across the country that have agreed to follow specific protocols and core best practices to ensure the highest quality of screening and follow-up care.

“Moffitt gave me the information, support and tools I needed to beat cancer. Now, I’m an advocate for my friends who still smoke or are former smokers. The fear of the unknown was so much worse than dealing with the reality of my CT scan,” said Devine.  

The CMS decision is the last major piece in a long series of validations reaffirming the lifesaving benefits of lung cancer screening. Lung cancer screening was scientifically proved in 2010 by one of the largest randomized controlled trials in the history of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  The NCI’s National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) confirmed that screening can reduce overall death from lung cancer, which is currently the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States.

Earlier this year, researchers at Moffitt analyzed survival rates of 635 lung cancer patients who underwent CT screens as part of the NLST study for the presence of suspicious lung nodules.  They found patients diagnosed with lung cancer who had at least one negative CT screen (i.e., no suspicious lung nodules were found) before cancer diagnosis had poorer survival compared to patients who had at least one positive screen before their lung cancer diagnosis. The results could make it possible to identify more aggressive lung cancers found during screening and determine the best treatment for patients. Recently, a multispecialty team of researchers and clinicians from Moffitt was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the state of Florida to expand and improve the cancer center’s lung cancer screening program.

The low-dose CT lung cancer screening is available for high-risk populations at Moffitt Cancer Center and Moffitt’s International Plaza location. Screening appointments can be made by calling 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488) or visiting MOFFITT.org/lungscreening.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact in Florida of nearly $1.6 billion. For more information, visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the Moffitt momentum on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

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