Medicare’s reassessment of lung cancer
You may have smoked for a number of years and perhaps still do. With Medicare now promising to cover the screening of lung cancer, would you sign up for it? This is certainly a tough question.
The requirements for eligibility are quite clear. Those who are between the ages of 55 and 77 can receive an annual low dose CT scan as long as they have had a smoking history of a minimum of 30 pack years which means a pack a day would have had to be smoked by the person every day for 30 years or 2 packs a day every 15 days and so on and he/she still continues to smoke or has only recently quit smoking within the past 15 yrs.
For such a screening, chances are that more than 10 million people in the US will be eligible. This is the figure which has been estimated by the US Preventive Services Task Force. However out of this figure, a number of them aren’t recipients of Medicare yet. Experts however do warn that undergoing the screening won’t help everyone who is eligible for it because chances are likely that some patients will be subject to harm.
A Medicare coverage advisory committee voted just the previous year against covering such a procedure and stated that lack of evidence was available for any benefit to result from it. A couple of months earlier, the US task force arrived at an opposite conclusion and gave the suggestion for yearly screening which has caused the coverage to become necessary for private insurers but not as yet for Medicare. Despite the decision of the advisory committee, Medicare went ahead and approved the coverage for the screening procedure however made a decision to require initially a counseling and a shared decision making visit with either a physician or a medical professional before the scan’s reimbursement could be made.
Lung cancer is something which is normally caused due to smoking and continues to cause deaths more than any other type of cancer mostly because it is difficult to detect at the stage when it can be cured. Nothing within the lungs makes it easy to sense that there may be a mass. With the right treatment which is surgery normally, 70% to 80% of people having stage 1 lung cancer and half of those at stage 2 tend to survive for around 5 yrs. However lung cancer is generally diagnosed when it is advanced which doesn’t show very positive mortality rates.
While research has constantly been conducted to look for ways of detecting the cancer earlier, experiments using regular chest x-rays have not shown positive results. However a research in 2011 did produce good findings in which those patients who got a low dost CT scan yearly for 3 years had a 20% less chance of dying from lung cancer. These results are what eventually led Medicare to approve and is now covering evidence based preventive services as well for its beneficiaries which will help in saving lives.