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Lung Cancer Screenings Now Covered by Medicare

Published: Feb. 6, 2015

OMAHA  Early detection and prevention of lung cancer took a giant step forward Thursday, when Medicare announced it would cover lung cancer screenings for those who meet the requirements.

Now, those who need it most will have access and coverage for a low dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer, a test that can save more lives than any cancer test in history.

“The Medicare decision signals a new day where lung cancer transitions from the number one cancer killer to a treatable, curable disease,” said Deb Meyers, program manager of the Methodist Lung Thoracic Oncology Clinic. “We commit to those at risk to provide high quality screening and follow up care.”

This ruling finalizes a draft decision issued in November 2014 that brings the benefit of screening to approximately five million American seniors, the most at-risk group for lung cancer. This represents close to half of the entire at risk public who would qualify for screening.

Per the Medicare decision, those who would qualify for the screening must meet the following criteria:

  • 55-77 years of age
  • Asymptomatic (no signs or symptoms of lung cancer)
  • Tobacco smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (one pack year = smoking one pack per day for one year)
  • Current smoker or one who has quit within the last 15 years
  • Receives a written order for a low dose CT scan from their medical care provider after a shared decision making appointment.

Methodist has been a recognized lung cancer screening site since 2001 and was the first hospital in the region to participate in the I-ELCAP trial starting in 2006. Methodist preforms more than 400 screenings a year. Designated as a lung cancer screening center of excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance, Methodist is one of only 250 such sites across the country.

“We have certainly been at the forefront of lung cancer screening for many years,” Meyers said. “We have seen first-hand the benefits of low dose CT scans in the early detection of lung cancer. To now be able to provide this preventative measure to potentially save more lives from this disease – it’s a landmark day for us.”

Existing data show that low-dose CT screening is the only proven way to detect lung cancer early enough to save lives. One of the largest randomized controlled clinical trials in National Cancer Institute's history showed that low dose CT screening could reduce lung cancer mortality rates by at least 20 percent; a significant improvement for a cancer that currently has a five year overall survival rate of only 17 percent.  For those diagnosed late stage, survival rates are less than 4 percent.

For more information on the screening program at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center call 402-354-5858 or visit