USPSTF Lung Cancer Screening Recommendation Toolkit

The updated lung cancer screening recommendation will double the number of individuals eligible for screening and has the potential to save significantly more lives.

Presented by the American Lung Association and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Lung cancer is the nation's leading cancer killer, accounting for approximately 22% of cancer deaths. Lung cancer screening is essential to saving lives. According to the American Lung Association’s “State of Lung Cancer” 2020 report, only 23% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher (59%). Unfortunately, 47% of cases are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is only 6%.

In March 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its recommendation for lung cancer screening for individuals at high risk to include people ages 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. This recommendation will nearly double the number of individuals eligible for screening and has the potential to save significantly more lives than the previous guidelines.

The American Lung Association and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have partnered to improve coverage for lung cancer screening for individuals at high risk. Below are a number of resources for stakeholders to learn about the updated recommendation and work to update insurance coverage policies to align with the new guidelines as soon as possible. MD Anderson is in the process of updating their lung cancer screening guidelines to reflect the USPSTF changes.

Frequently Asked Questions about the New USPSTF Lung Cancer Screening Recommendation

Overall, more than 14 million people will be eligible for screening under the new guidelines. The expanded criteria will more than double the number of Black and Hispanic people eligible for screening and increase the number of American Indians and Alaskan Natives eligible by 2.7-fold. Close to twice as many women will also be eligible for screening under the revised guidelines.

Most private plans – including individual, small group, large group, and self-insured plans – and Medicaid expansion plans must update their coverage to comply with the new guidelines for plan years beginning March 31, 2022. However, the Lung Association urges plans to update their coverage policies as soon as possible.  Learn more from our screening coverage chart.

Medicare covers screening for individuals who are between the ages of 55 and 77 years, have a tobacco smoking history of at least 30 pack-years, are current smokers or former smokers who have quit within the last 15 years, and have no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer. Medicare has not yet changed its eligibility criteria, but the Lung Association is advocating for Medicare to do so as soon as possible.

Page last updated: May 10, 2021

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