Physicians Hall Front

Medical College of Wisconsin Partners with Top Cancer Organizations to Endorse Initiative to Increase Lung Cancer Screening

Milwaukee, Dec. 8, 2022 – Medical College of Wisconsin has partnered with more than 50 cancer organizations to issue a call to action (PDF) urging individuals, providers and insurers to increase access to and utilization of low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans for those at high risk for lung cancer, which:

  • is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., accounting for almost 25% of all cancer deaths;
  • kills more than 350 people in the U.S. each day;
  • is most often diagnosed at an advanced stage when treatment options are limited, and outcomes are poor.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening for people ages 50-80 who have smoked for at least 20 years. However, only 5.7% of eligible Americans were screened for lung cancer before the COVID-19 pandemic – compared to screening rates for breast, cervical and colon cancers that hover between 60% and 80%. Screening rates have decreased for all cancers due to the pandemic.

This new effort aligns with and supports the national Cancer Moonshot initiative, which aims to reduce cancer deaths by 50% over the next 25 years. Lung cancer screening is one easy way to help reach that goal. This call to action provides guidance for national support, including public funding and health policy changes needed to significantly improve lung cancer screening participation.

Two major barriers to screening are coverage and access. While low-dose CT screening for lung cancer is covered by Medicare and most private insurance plans, the pre-authorization process can delay the procedure by several days and place an unnecessary burden on community providers. Additionally, a recent study by the American Cancer Society found that at least 5% of those eligible for low-dose CT scans live more than 40 miles from a screening facility – and that percentage jumps to nearly 25% for screening-eligible individuals in rural areas.

The task force urges people to talk to their physicians about lung cancer screening or to take advantage of resources, such as the American Lung Association’s screening eligibility quiz or GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer state-by-state screening center directory.

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