November 18, 2021

New CMS Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Can Help Save Lives

Providers Urged to Pursue Quality Assurance as Screening Proliferates

New Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed recommendations to lower lung cancer screening (LCS) initial age and smoking history requirements cement the lifesaving impact of these exams, and would remove barriers to care and help providers save more lives. The American College of Radiology® (ACR®) urges LCS providers to continue to take advantage of quality assurance resources to ensure that patients are safely and effectively screened, and that data can be gathered to improve the screening process over time.   


“Expanded access to lung cancer screening will help doctors strike a blow against the nation’s leading cancer killer,” said Debra Dyer, MD, FACR, Chair of the American College of Radiology Lung Cancer Screening Steering Committee. “Screening providers, particularly those starting new screening programs, should seek accreditation, use Lung-RADS® structured reporting, take part in the Lung Cancer Screening Registry and leverage educational offerings to maximize screenings’ lifesaving benefit.”


Annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in high-risk patients greatly reduces lung cancer deaths.[1],[2] The primary CMS recommendations now closely track those of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which will nearly double the number of Americans eligible for this screening.


Sadly, less than 15% of Americans who met previous CMS and USPSTF lung cancer screening criteria are tested.[3],[4]  Given that the American Cancer Society predicts 131,880 lung cancer deaths in 2021, more-widespread screening could save 30,000–60,000 lives in the United States each year. Doctors, patients and insurers must work together to make this happen.


“As lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined, this cost-effective exam is poised to save more lives than any cancer-screening test in history,” said Ella Kazerooni MD, MS, FACR, Chair of the National Lung Cancer Roundtable. “It is critical that physicians know of new guidelines so they can engage with patients to make informed screening decisions.”


The Lung Cancer Screening Locator Tool helps patients and families find a screening site near them. People can safely be screened during the COVID-19 resurgence — but there are steps they and their providers should take.


The ACR will work with CMS and other provider and patient advocacy groups to ensure quality assurance remains central to new and continued screening programs as LCS is made available to more Americans.The College will submit comments to CMS on the proposed LCS changes during the comment period, which ends Dec. 17. ACR members are encouraged to comment to CMS as well. Based on feedback received, CMS will issue a final National Coverage Analysis for this valuable screening service by Feb. 15, 2022.


For more LCS information, visit, and ACR Lung Cancer Screening Resources.