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Few of those eligible get lung cancer screening, despite USPSTF recommendations



Only 12.8% of eligible adults get CT screening for lung cancer, despite recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Kristin G. Maki, PhD, with Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, led a team that estimated lung cancer screening (LCS) from the 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in four states (Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and Rhode Island).

“Increasing LCS among eligible adults is a national priority,” the authors wrote in the study, published online in JAMA Network Open. Lung cancer remains the top cause of cancer in the United States and smoking accounts for approximately 90% of cases.

Screening much higher for other cancers

The authors pointed out that screening rates for eligible people are much higher for other cancers. Melzer and colleagues wrote in a 2021 editorial that breast and colon cancer screening rates are near 70% “despite combined annual death rates less than two-thirds that of lung cancer.”

The USPSTF updated its recommendations for lung cancer screening in March 2021.

Eligibility now includes anyone aged between 50 and 80 years who has smoked at least 20 pack-years and either still smokes or quit within the last 15 years.

The researchers found that, when comparing screening by health status, the highest odds for screening were seen in those who reported they were in poor health, which is concerning, the authors note, because those patients may not be healthy enough to benefit from treatment for their lung cancer.

The odds ratio for getting screening was 2.88 (95% confidence interval, 0.85-9.77) times higher than that of the reference group, which reported excellent health.

Rates differ by state

Consistent with previous studies, this analysis found that screening rates differed by state. Their analysis, for example, showed a higher likelihood of screening for respondents in Rhode Island, compared with Maine (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.05-3.67; P = .03).

Patients who reported having a primary health professional were more than five times more likely to undergo screening, compared with those without one (OR, 5.62; 95% CI, 1.19-26.49).

The authors said their results also highlight the need for Medicare coverage for screening as those with public insurance had lower odds of screening than those with private insurance (OR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.42-1.56).

Neelima Navuluri, MD, assistant professor in the division of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care at Duke University and the Duke Global Health Institute, both in Durham, N.C., pointed out that the study highlights age, smoking status, and health care access as key factors associated with lack of uptake.

Work needed on all levels

Dr. Navuluri said in an interview that multifaceted patient-, provider- and system-level interventions are needed to improve screening rates.

“For example, we need more community engagement to increase knowledge and awareness of eligibility for lung cancer screening,” she said.

She highlighted the need for interventions around improving and streamlining shared decision-making conversations about screening (a CMS requirement that does not exist for other cancer screening).

Emphasis is needed on younger age groups, people who currently smoke, and communities of color as well as policy to improve insurance coverage of screening, she said.

Dr. Navuluri, who also works with the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was lead author on a study published in JAMA Network Open on racial disparities in screening among veterans.

“We demonstrate similar findings related to age, smoking status, and poor health status,” she said. “We discuss the need for more qualitative studies to better understand the role of these factors as well as implementation studies to assess effectiveness of various interventions to improve disparities in lung cancer screening rates.”

“Research to identify facilitators for LCS among persons who currently smoke is needed, including a focus on the role of stigma as a barrier to screening,” they wrote.

One coauthor is supported by the cancer prevention and research training program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. No other disclosures were reported. Dr. Navuluri receives funding from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network for work on lung cancer screening.

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