Lack of Insurance Coverage a Barrier to Lung Cancer Screening

Vast majority of current, former smokers willing to undergo spiral CT, Roswell Park/MUSC study finds
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The majority of current and former smokers would welcome screenings for lung cancer if their insurance covered the spiral computed tomography (CT) scans, according to research from Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and the Medical University of South Carolina and published online ahead of print in the journal Lung Cancer.

More than 1,200 adult current smokers and former smokers were surveyed about their attitudes toward lung cancer screening using spiral CT scans. Current smokers (78.5%) and former smokers (81.4%) said they would be willing to be tested, if advised to do so by their physician. Reasons why smokers are not willing to be screened included: a lack of insurance coverage (smokers: 33%; former smokers: 25%) and a fear of being diagnosed with lung cancer (smokers: 33%; former smokers: 12.5%). Among former smokers, the most commonly cited reason for not having the screening was a belief that they did not have lung cancer.

“This study provides valuable information regarding the barriers to lung cancer screening, including a lack of insurance coverage,” said Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “These data speak to the need of insurance companies to pay for this life-saving test.”

The recent National Lung Cancer Screen Trial, a major study involving 53,454 current or former heavy smokers, reported a 20% reduction in mortality rate when lung cancer was diagnosed using spiral CT, compared to annual chest x-rays. Currently, only 17% of patients treated for lung cancer survive beyond five years.

A number of professional organizations have recommended lung cancer screening with spiral CT, including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, American Association of Thoracic Surgery and American Cancer Society. These recommendations can influence health insurance coverage for the procedure.

K. Michael Cummings, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, added: “The results are consistent with previous studies which have shown high enthusiasm from patients to undergo cancer screening if the procedure is recommended by their doctors and covered by their insurance.”

The study, “Patient willingness and barriers to receiving a CT scan for lung cancer screening,” was funded by RPCI.


About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 13,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.7 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (one of 66 National Cancer Institute designated centers) Level I Trauma Center and Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit For more information on hospital patient services, visit

About RPCI

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

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Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager