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Fear, lack of coverage hinder lung cancer screenings

Contact: Heather Woolwine

March 31, 2014

CHARLESTON – The majority of current and former smokers would welcome screenings for lung cancer if their insurance covered the spiral computed tomography (CT) scans, according to research from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) published in the current issue of the journal, Lung Cancer.

More than 1,200 adult current and former smokers were surveyed about their attitudes toward lung cancer screening, using spiral CT scans. Current smokers (78.5 percent) and former smokers (81.4 percent) said they would be willing to be tested, if advised to do so by their physician. Reasons why smokers are not willing to be screened included: a lack of insurance coverage (smokers, 33 percent; former smokers, 25 percent) and a fear of being diagnosed with lung cancer (smokers, 33 percent; former smokers, 12.5 percent). Among former smokers, the most commonly cited reason for not having the screening was a belief that they did not have lung cancer.

“These data provide insight for public policy makers and clinicians about the perceived risks and benefits of lung cancer screening among eligible populations. The results are consistent with previous studies which have shown high enthusiasm from patients to undergo cancer screening if the procedure is recommended by their doctors and covered by their insurance,” said study author K. Michael Cummings, Ph.D., MUSC Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and Hollings Cancer Center. Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, agreed, “This study provides valuable information regarding the barriers to lung cancer screening including a lack of insurance coverage, and speaks to the need of insurance companies to pay for this life saving test.”

The recent National Lung Cancer Screen Trial reported a 20 percent reduction in mortality rate when lung cancer was diagnosed using spiral CT, compared to annual chest X-rays. Currently, only 17 percent of patients treated for lung cancer survive beyond five years. A number of professional organizations have recommended lung cancer screening with spiral CT, including U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, American Association of Thoracic Surgery and the American Cancer Society. These recommendations can influence health insurance coverage for the procedure.

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 13,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.7 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (one of 66 National Cancer Institute designated centers) Level I Trauma Center and Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit For more information on hospital patient services, visit



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