Beth Zigmund, M.D., director of lung cancer screening at the UVM Medical Center and associate professor of radiology at the Larner College of Medicine
(July 18, 2022) Despite the strong evidence for early lung cancer screening and the widespread availability of the simple, short, painless low-dose CT scan that is covered in full by insurance — now, seven centers throughout Vermont offer the procedure — very few eligible individuals take advantage of this potentially lifesaving procedure, Beth Zigmund, M.D., director of lung cancer screening at the UVM Medical Center and associate professor of radiology at the Larner College of Medicine, wrote in an opinion piece in VTDigger.
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Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer of all. A large clinical trial, the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, which concluded in 2011, showed participants who underwent low-dose CT had 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths than those who did not. This compelling evidence — on par with that for breast cancer screening and stronger than that for prostate cancer screening — led to a 2013 recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force that high-risk current and former smokers undergo yearly lung cancer screening. The Affordable Care Act requires Medicare, Medicaid, as well as private insurers to cover the cost of the procedure in full.
The lack of awareness of and participation in lung cancer screening takes a heavy toll. Most people with lung cancer do not develop symptoms until the disease has spread to nearby tissues or distant organs. Five-year survival is about 33 percent if the disease has spread locally and 6 percent if distantly. But early detection dramatically improves the potential for cure, increasing five-year survival to 60 percent thanks to implementation of surgical and medical treatments that can stop the disease from spreading.
Lung cancer is the #1 cause of cancer death in Vermont, but getting screened saves lives. Screening can find cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. Learn more about lung cancer screening at https://vtaac.org/lung-cancer-screening/.