Lung Cancer Screening With Low-dose Computed Tomography: An Analysis of the MEDCAC Decision

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and worldwide. However, among the top 4 deadliest cancers, lung cancer is the only one not subject to routine screening. Optimism for an effective lung cancer–screening examination soared after the release of the National Lung Screening Trial results in November 2011. Since then, nearly 40 major medical societies and organizations have endorsed low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening. In December 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force also endorsed LDCT. However, the momentum for LDCT screening slowed in April 2014 when the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee (MEDCAC) panel concluded that there was not enough evidence to justify the annual use of LDCT scans for the detection of early lung cancer. This article briefly reviews the epidemiology of lung cancer, the National Lung Screening Trial study results, and the growing national endorsement of LDCT from a variety of key stakeholder organizations. We subsequently analyze and offer our evidence-based counterpoints to the major assumptions underlying the MEDCAC decision.

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