Last year, findings from the National Lung Screening trial showed that low-dose computed tomography for current and former smokers had the potential to prevent roughly 12,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S. Conducted from 2002 to 2009 and led by Jiemin Ma, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, the research revealed that low-dose screenings reduced the mortality rate by approximately 20 percent of smokers aged 55 to 74 years.
Based on this information and other data, such as the size of the U.S. population, Ma and his colleagues estimated that 8.6 million Americans were eligible for the low-dose CT procedure that could prevent or delay lung cancer development. Published in CANCER, the peer-reviewed journal of the ACS, the results from the study played a major part in the recent meeting of the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee that was convened to consider whether the government program should cover low-dose CT screenings for high-risk individuals.
Low-confidence in CT scans
According to AuntMinnie.com, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services called the meeting, which was held in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 30, 2014. The panel was comprised of notable stakeholders in the health care industry, including Claudia Henschke, M.D., leader of the Early Lung Cancer Action Project. They raised important questions on issues such as mortality reductions and lack of standardized CT lung screening guidelines. Overall, the panelists expressed low confidence in many of their responses, leading CT lung screening supporters to believe that the respondents lacked experience in medical imaging and its state-of-the-art technology.
"It became pretty clear … they were instructed not to take into account any of the kinds of programs that were in place to ensure quality standards, like the [American College of Radiology's] CT accreditation program. They were instructed to consider the questions in kind of a vacuum," said Ella Kazerooni, M.D., professor of radiology at the University of Michigan and chair of the ACR's lung cancer screening committee, quoted by AuntMinnie.com.
Many backers of CT screenings felt that the panel focused more on the potential harms of low-dose digital imaging as opposed to the benefits. However, a common concern with low-dose CT is the matter of overdiagnosis, leading to a need for optimized screening programs that determine which lung cancers are more or less aggressive and pose the greatest threat to patients, FierceMedicalImaging reported.
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