ACR points out reasons for low CT lung screening rates

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In light of recent research indicating low CT lung cancer screening rates, the American College of Radiology (ACR) has suggested that the combination of low Medicare reimbursement and insufficient patient and physician awareness may be to blame.

In a statement, the ACR pointed to several factors potentially contributing to the low screening rates:

  • Overstated number of false positives: One of the main concerns with CT lung cancer screening has been the detection of false positives. However, updates to the Lung-RADS reporting and management tool have reduced the false-positive rate by approximately 75%. Furthermore, the benefits of screening for lung cancer outweigh any likely harms to individuals eligible for screening, according to the ACR.
  • Lack of physician and patient awareness: Many healthcare providers and patients are not fully informed about the benefits of screening for lung cancer, the college noted. Unlike for breast or colon cancer screening, the decision to undergo lung cancer screening has to be made by both the patient and the primary care physician.
  • Suboptimal coverage by Medicare: The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reduced Medicare reimbursement for CT lung cancer screening to approximately $60 per exam, which is less than half the amount provided for a screening mammogram.

"Thousands of people each year should not be allowed to die needlessly while the medical community fine-tunes the only exam proven to save lives from the nation's leading cancer killer," said Dr. Ella Kazerooni, chair of the ACR Lung Cancer Screening Committee. "Medicare must also provide adequate reimbursement. We need to save lives now."

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