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November 16, 2022 Health & Wellness

Lung Cancer Screenings for Medicare Beneficiaries

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer, and the #1 cause of cancer deaths.

Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we thought it was important to share what lung cancer screenings are available for Medicare beneficiaries. First, we’ll discuss what symptoms to look for and why lung cancer screenings are important.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Some of the more common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Cough that will not go away
  • Coughing up blood, or rust-colored phlegm
  • Chest pain that worsens with deep breaths, coughing, or laughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Bronchitis or pneumonia that won’t go away
  • Wheezing
  • Being hoarse

Symptoms don’t usually present in a person until the disease is at a more advanced stage. Because of this, it’s important to get the screening even if you’re asymptomatic, when early detection is more likely.

Why Should I Get a Lung Cancer Screening?

The most important to get screened is that early detection can save your life!

Low-dose CT (LDCT) scans have been found to be particularly effective at catching abnormal, possibly cancerous, areas in the lungs in people at higher risk. It is especially important to catch lung cancer in the early stages and before it has spread so that treatment is more likely to be successful.

The American Cancer Society has a great article about early detection.

Medicare Coverage for Lung Cancer Screenings

Medicare Part B will cover low dose computed tomography (CT scan) lung cancer screenings once a year for beneficiaries with the following criteria:

  • Age 50-77
  • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • Current smoker or quit within the last 15 years
  • At least 20 pack years of tobacco history (meaning you smoked an average of a pack a day for at least 20 years)
  • Doctor’s orders for the screening

You will be asked to meet with a lung cancer screening counselor prior to receiving your first CT scan. Then you’ll need to discuss the benefits and risks of lung cancer screenings at a shared decision-making visit with your doctor. You and your doctor can decide if a screening is right for you. There are other possible ways to screen for lung cancer, but the low-dose CT scan is the only one covered by Medicare, with the above qualifications.

Just remember to keep track of all your appointments and the services you received so you can be sure your record is accurate. Learn more about how and why to use a health care tracker on our blog. SMP will provide you with your own health care tracker if requested – order yours here.