This past week brought great news for Medicare patients! Medicare is now covering the cost of low-dose screening CT chests in selected patients. Screening with low-dose CT chest has been shown to save lives with the ability to diagnose lung cancer when it is small and more treatable. Here are the details: WHO is covered?
- Must be between 55 and 77 years of age
- Must be a current smoker or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
- Must have smoked the equivalent of 30 pack years (that means 1 pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years, or any other such combination)
WHAT steps are needed for coverage?
- Must have a visit with their referring physician or nurse practitioner prior to the CT for “a shared-decision making/smoking cessation counseling session prior to being referred for their first screening exam.” This is not needed for studies after the first.
- Must have an order from the doctor or nurse practitioner.
HOW is the test done?
- This is a quick, non-contrast CT of the chest done with low dose.
- This is part of a total program to reduce lung cancer risk, including the most important part – a goal of smoking cessation.
- The test is a screening test – meaning, if something is found (about 10% of the time) something else may be recommended – this could mean further imaging, including a CT chest with contrast, PET imaging or short-term follow up CT studies, or could mean a lung biopsy.
- This is intended to be repeated annually.
- Sites providing coverage must meet many requirements, including specifications on dose and follow-up of patients.
The possibility of decreasing the number of deaths from lung cancer by getting patients into a screening program is exciting.
If you or someone you know fits the above criteria, get an appointment with your doctor. If it’s a loved one, you may be the voice that prompts their action! Screening of smokers with low-dose CT chest is a huge leap forward in the fight against lung cancer.
Originally published 2/9/15 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.