November 19, 2010
The Prevent Cancer Foundation joined with the Lung Cancer Alliance and the American Legacy Foundation to send a letter to Carolyn M. Clancy M.D., the Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), urging the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to take immediate action to change their current rating for CT scans.
The USPSTF is an independent panel of primary care providers that publish “Recommendation Statements” on all cancer screenings. The USPSTF’s guidelines for lung cancer screenings are from 2004, and they currently assign CT scans a grade of “I”. This means there is insufficient evidence for USPSTF to recommend for or against the screening.
However, in early November of this year, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced that they were suspending the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) due to a confirmed 20% decrease in mortality when CT scans were used instead of X-rays for lung cancer screening. The Prevent Cancer Foundation is optimistic that the USPSTF will initiate an expedited review and consider the NLST trial results as sufficient and conclusive evidence to issue an updated recommendation statement. If USPSTF awards an “A” or “B” grade to CT scans, it will be recommended or highly recommended that the procedure be provided to eligible patients. The rating could also mean stronger guidelines for use, and greater accessibility to CT scans for consumers as a result of more trained providers and increased insurance coverage.
Our Foundation leadership has long advocated for improving screening and early detection options for lung cancer patients. “It is critical for men and women at high risk for lung cancer to have access to the most effective screening available for early detection of lung cancer,” says Prevent Cancer Foundation President and Founder Carolyn R. Aldigé. “Prompt review by the USPSTF will initiate this process and ensure that screening is provided only to those most likely to benefit. We simply cannot afford not to take advantage of this breakthrough.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, and a 20% reduced mortality rate would be a tremendous victory in the fight against cancer. To view the letter to AHRQ cosigned by the Prevent Cancer Foundation and two other leading cancer organizations, please visit the Prevent Cancer Foundation Web site.