The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last week gave a final “B” grade to its earlier recommendation that current or heavy smokers between 55 and 80 receive annual CT scans to detect lung cancer. Preventive services given an “A” or “B” rating by the task force must be reimbursed by insurers at no cost to patients under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The American Lung Association endorsed the decision, saying it hopes screening will increase lung cancer early detection, treatment and survival rates. But the recommendation is controversial. The panel's draft report in July noted that 96% of CT lung cancer tests that initially tested positive were false positives. That means many patients without lung cancer may be exposed to further tests, more radiation, and invasive and costly procedures that carry higher risks of complications.