Although screening for lung cancer has been available for only a short amount of time, I see many people who would benefit from screening who do not meet the current recommendations (30 pack/year smoking history). 

What is the likelihood we will soon see an update to the recommendations for lung cancer screening?

The 30 pack year smoking history is not the only recommendation that currently limits who could benefit from screening.

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Currently, only people older than 50 years with a smoking history of more than 20 years and at least one other risk factor, or those older than 55 years with a smoking history of 30+ pack year who has quit smoking more than 15 years before screening are eligible.1

Several studies have investigated whether low-dose screening outweighs the radiation-induced cancer risk in patients younger than 55 years, with overall outcomes negating the benefits of early screening.

Since the CMS has agreed that low-dose lung cancer screening is appropriate for people who are covered by Medicare and are older than 55 years with the guideline-stated smoking history and/or other risk factors, it seems probable that this will remain the standard.

However, as of this writing (July 2015), CMS is not yet paying for this screening for Medicare patients.


1. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines). Lung cancer screening. Version 1.2015. Fort Washington, PA: National Comprehensive Cancer Network; 2015.