Medicare Coverage for Lung Cancer Screenings

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in early February 2015 that Medicare beneficiaries will be covered for lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans. This annual benefit has specific restrictions, but if utilized could be the difference between surgically treatable stage I lung cancer and a more difficult prognosis.


Candidates for lung cancer screening:

  • a current or former smoker (Former smokers must have quit within the past 15 years)
  • and ages 55-77 years old*
  • and with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years
    (this means 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, 3 packs for 10 years, etc.)
  • and exhibit no symptoms of lung cancer

The Reality of False Positives

At UW Health, our Lung Cancer Screening program meets all of the requirements designated by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, including a multidisciplinary review of CT scans. We are an ACR Accredited academic medical center with expertise in diagnosing and managing lung cancer. We interpret over 2000 chest CT scans per year. It is important to note that 27 percent of patients who get a screening CT will have some abnormality on their CT scan, but only 1 percent of them will end up having cancer; 10 percent will have some abnormality unrelated to their lungs.


Be Sure to Discuss the Options

Talk with your doctor about lung cancer screening and if it's right for you. Be sure to have a discussion about the benefits and risks of the screening process, including the personal, financial and time costs. If you have had a chest CT within the last year, you can be screened a year out from your last CT date.


It's Always the Right Time to Quit

It can be a challenging topic, quit smoking or even reducing how much you smoke can make a big difference in their health, so talk to your doctor about options. Whether you want to quit for the first time or are looking for strategies that can help you reduce how much you smoke, you can find resources on quitting smoking and smoking cessation online at the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.


*Medicare covers lung screening for high-risk patients up to 77 years old. Private insurance covers these screenings up to 80 years old