Anticipating new U.S. lung screening guidelines, U-M opens dedicated clinic

In a major policy change, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently issued new guidelines recommending annual CT scans for adults at high risk for developing disease, specifically, men and women age 55-80 with at least 30 pack years of exposure (one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 or more years), whether they are still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years. Medicare coverage has also been approved through a draft recommendation issued recently.

Douglas Arenberg, M.D.
Douglas Arenberg, M.D.

The change was driven by data from the National Lung Screening Trial, a randomized trial involving 53,454 current or former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74. The trial compared low-dose helical CT with standard chest X-ray for detecting lung cancer. Participants screened with CT scans had a 20 percent lower risk of death from lung cancer than those screened with X-rays.

In part as a response to the new guidelines, the U-M Lung Cancer Screening Clinic opened in a new location in the fall of 2014 at U-M’s newest outpatient health center in Northville, MI. The screening process includes shared decision-making, an initial low-dose CT scan and an office visit to discuss the results and promote tobacco cessation. Yearly scans for high-risk individuals with limited co-morbidity between the ages of 55 and 80 are the current USPSTF recommendation. 

“This is an important finding for those of us who care for lung cancer patients,” says Douglas Arenberg, M.D., who leads the new clinic. “We’ve waited 40 years for proof that lung cancer screening saves lives. This study proves that, in the right population, screening performed by experienced institutions can reduce the number of people dying from lung cancer.”

Through the U-M Lung Cancer Screening Clinic, patients have access to an interdisciplinary team with significant experience identifying and monitoring lung nodules while minimizing unnecessary invasive procedures.

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