Smokers and former smokers considering CT Lung Screening may be confused when they don’t meet the eligibility requirements of Medicare and other insurance. So the question becomes, should smokers be screened? The answer is yes.
First, let’s review the Medicare eligibility requirements for coverage of CT Lung Screenings. Requirements include:
- Age 55-76
- Current smoker or quit smoking in the last 15 years
- Have smoked at least 30 pack years (a pack a day for a year or equivalent ratio)
- Have not had lung cancer and exhibit no symptoms of lung cancer.
It’s easy to see why, as a smoker, you may question if it is worth getting screened using CT lung screening. Dr. Ehab Youssef who heads RMI’s CT lung screening program, says it is definitely worth it. The criteria listed were based on a national lung cancer study that has served as a benchmark for CT lung cancer screenings.
However, the criteria certainly don’t exclude at-risk persons. Lung cancer can strike at ages below 55, for smokers who quit 16 years ago, smoked 29 pack-years, or who “feel fine.” The ages and other criteria are derived from the study’s ground rules, but all smokers are at risk.
People who don’t meet the criteria, Youssef said, can get screened by simply paying for the test. If you are or have been a smoker, it’s a good idea to be screened now.
“If you smoked for 10 years, you should certainly consider screening,” Youssef said. “If we find something, we can always follow up.
Here’s the big payoff: if lung cancer is caught early, there is a 92% survival rate. If caught too late, it drops to just 15%. Annual CT Lung Screenings are shown to reduce deaths by 20%. The standard chest x-ray alone is not enough.
Concerns about false-positive results in CT lung screenings are addressed by a numerical system used by the physicians and radiologists to determine what a result might mean, and what the next course of action should be. However, it all starts with your decision to discuss smoking with your primary care physician and ask about CT Lung Screening.