CMS Expands Medicare Coverage for Lung Cancer Screening

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on February 10th that it will be expanding Medicare coverage for lung cancer screening. The new coverage will expand lung cancer screening in the private market, extending access to low-dose computed tomography (CT scanning) for Medicare patients, in order to align with current recommendations. 

What Is The Expansion?

More people in the United States die from lung cancer than from any other type of cancer, so in an attempt to save more people, Medicare will now make it easier to get screened for this deadly disease. Medicare beneficiaries will now have expanded access to low-dose CT scanning, a special type of CT scan screening that uses computers to generate high quality images of the lungs in order to detect abnormalities. Low-dose CT scanning is the recommended screening for lung cancer, and now beneficiaries can get it:  

  • Starting at the age of 50, instead of 55
  • Even if they show no sign of cancer
  • If they have a history of tobacco use (20 packs of cigarettes a year)

    pack of cigarettes

  • If they are current smokers
  • If they are former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years

Why The Expansion?

As we mentioned above, lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the U.S. It is also the third most common type of cancer overall. The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States in 2022 there will be:

  • Around 236,740 new cases of lung cancer (117,910 in men and 118,830 in women)
  • Around 130,180 deaths from lung cancer (68,820 in men and 61,360 in women)
red lungs
Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the U.S. It is also the third most common type of cancer overall.

Not only that, but lung cancer mainly occurs in older people, with most people receiving their diagnosis at age 65 or older; the average age when diagnosed is about 70. For this reason, it is especially important that Medicare encourages lung cancer screenings to help with early detection, and expands access to them for as many people as possible.

“Expanding coverage broadens access for lung cancer screening to at-risk populations,” Lee Fleisher, MD, chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at CMS, said in a press release emailed to HealthPayerIntelligence. “Today’s decision not only expands access to quality care but is also critical to improving health outcomes for people by helping to detect lung cancer earlier.”

The hope is that with this expansion, more people will get screened, so that more cases of lung cancer can be caught early – the earlier cancer is detected, the better the odds of beating it.

Women’s Health Has Been Improving Over The Years, Continue The Trend With EZ

Did you know that in the past 30 years, the average woman’s life expectancy has increased from 79 to 81? Now, that might seem like a small change, but it is a big step in the right direction. Women’s health has been improving thanks to all of the significant advancements in the past few decades, and the focus on improving women’s health doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. There is no better time than now to continue this trend by getting checked, and what better way to do this than with the help of EZ, and a great insurance plan? 

Some Interesting Facts

cigarettes placed next to each other going downward on s graph
The percentage of American adult women who smoke has decreased from 28% to 16% in the past 30 years.

Smoking & Lung Cancer Rates Are Down

In 1963, a shocking 34% of American women were smokers. It was not until 1964, when the first federal report outlined all of the harmful effects of smoking, that there was a push to change that. So now, with all of the knowledge available to women, not to mention all of the smoking cessation programs that are covered by health insurance, the percentage of women who smoke – and lung cancer rates – have dramatically decreased. The percentage of American adult women who smoke has decreased from 28% to 16% in the past 30 years.

Heart Disease Is Becoming Less of a Threat

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, and the scary thing is that women can experience a heart attack without the chest pressure we associate with cardiac events, which can lead to dangerous delays in treatment. Fortunately, the signs of a cardiac event in women are now more well-known, so women have the knowledge they need to take charge of their health. Thanks to many federally-funded programs that have made women more aware of the risk factors for heart disease, the number of women who die from heart disease has decreased from 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 women.

Breast Cancer Deaths Are Declining

Nowadays, over 90% of breast cancers found in the early stages can be successfully treated, and fortunately, breast cancer is now also being detected earlier. This means that the average death rate for the disease has gone down nearly 2% per year in the past 10 years. This good news might be due to the fact that women are taking more initiative to examine themselves and get checked immediately when they feel a lump, or feel that something isn’t right, and are also more likely to get annual screenings. In 1990, only half of all American women over 50 years old had had a mammogram within the past 2 years. Now, 73% of women over 50 years old have had a mammogram in the past 2 years. This has led to an estimated 10% drop in breast cancer deaths.

How You Can Continue This Trend

hand with money in it and another hand with a red cross in it
EZ will help you find an affordable plan with great coverage.

Women’s health has progressed more than anyone could imagine, and although all of the above is great news, there is still so much more work to do. The best way to continue the upward trend of women’s health is to stay on top of your own health by getting any screenings that you need, or participating in programs that will improve your health. An EZ agent can help you with this: we will devote our time and resources to making sure you have the best health insurance possible – insurance that is affordable and that still provides the coverage you need. Don’t let lack of insurance, or a subpar plan, stop you from getting the care you need!

EZ offers a wide range of health insurance plans from top-rated insurance companies in every state. And because we work with so many companies and can offer all of the plans available in your area, we can find you a plan that saves you a lot of money – even hundreds of dollars – even if you don’t qualify for a subsidy. There is no obligation, or hassle, just free quotes on all available plans in your area. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to a local agent, call 888-350-1890.

Lung Cancer Is More Common In Non-Smokers Than You Think

When a person is diagnosed with lung cancer, the first question asked is “were they a smoker?” The reason is that most people believe you only get lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. Whereas the reality is that most lung cancer patients are not active smokers. Anyone with lungs can get it. 

Drawing of two lungs, on the right side, it is darker than the right side.
For non-smokers, lung cancer is considered the 6th most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

For non-smokers, lung cancer is considered the 6th most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Researchers say the main reason for so many deaths is lack of funding. There is a difference between lung cancer with smokers and non-smokers.

The Causes

Current or former smokers are at a high risk of getting lung cancer, but non-smokers are at risk as well. About 10-15% of non-smokers develop lung cancer due to different risk factors.

  • Secondhand Smoke– If you live with, or work in proximity to a smoker, then your lung cancer risk raises by 24%. Inhaling tobacco smoke is as bad as smoking the tobacco yourself. Secondhand smoke is responsible for almost 3,000 American lung cancer deaths annually.
  • Radon Gas– Exposure to radon gas in your home is another contributing risk factor. Radon gas is a radioactive gas that is still, colorless, and odorless. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. It forms when uranium decays in soil, rocks, and water. Radon gas accounts for a yearly 12% of American lung cancer deaths. Most, if not all, houses contain radon gas detectors. Make sure your detector is up to date, working, and serviced regularly. 
  • Asbestos– Asbestos is a compound that was used in home/building insulation in the past. When the asbestos fibers break loose and are released into the air, a person can inhale them. Lung cancer develops from inhaling this toxic substance, and it can also cause mesothelioma.
  • Genetics– If you have a family history of lung cancer, then your risk is higher regardless of your smoking habits.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)– According to a small study, HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, has been found in lung cancer cells. Researchers examined 36 tumor tissue samples from patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who had never smoked. The investigators found that about 6% of tissue samples showed signs of infection from strains of HPV known to cause cancer.
    Power plants with a large amount of smoke coming out of it into the air.
    If a person lives in a city, or close to a power plant, then they have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

    Air Pollution– Pollution from cars and power plants is unavoidable. If a person lives in a city, or close to a power plant, then they have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. Almost 2,000 lung cancer deaths a year are due to polluted air. 

The Difference in Lung Cancers

There are 2 types of lung cancer: squamous cell lung cancers and adenocarcinomas. 

  • Squamous Cell Lung Cancer

    – Also called epidermoid carcinoma, it occurs when abnormal lung cells multiply out of control and form a tumor. This type of cancer accounts for 25-30% of all lung cancers. It is more common in people who smoke, and it grows near the airways, causing coughing symptoms early on, including coughing up blood.

  • Adenocarcinomas

    –  This type of cancer forms in mucus-secreting glands throughout the body. It typically occurs in 85-90% of lung cancer cases, and is also the most common type of cancer, regardless of smoking habits, mostly found in women and young adults. It often grows in the lung’s outer regions. A person can have this type of lung cancer for a long time and show no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, the ones to watch for are shortness of breath, bone pain, and fatigue. 

Lung cancer is diagnosed at a later stage for non-smokers because they usually lack symptoms. People with allergies or a respiratory infection often brush these issues off as normal. Due to the fact that lung cancer is seen as a self-caused cancer by smokers, funding and research are limited. However, to help people live, researchers are constantly looking for ways to detect lung cancer in non-smokers at an earlier stage. 

Lung cancer has no prejudice; both non-smokers and smokers are susceptible to dying from it. In order to lower a non-smoker’s chances of developing it, there are preventive measures they can take. Check your home for radon gas and asbestos, get checked for HPV, and avoid being in close proximity to a smoker when you can. If you suspect something is off, like coughing more than normal, shortness of breath, bone pain, or feeling tired regularly, see your doctor and get tested. The longer you excuse your symptoms for a cold, the more cancer progresses. Do not wait to take care of yourself, you can beat lung cancer before it begins, or worsens.