Responding to National Gap in Screening and Early Detection, Leading Lung Cancer Orgs Unite to Advance Comprehensive, Life-Saving Action on Lung Cancer

The American Lung Association, GO2 for Lung Cancer and LUNGevity Foundation have joined voices today with Congressional leaders, lung cancer survivors and experts to demand national action to reduce suffering and death from lung cancer. With individuals affected by this most deadly cancer type by their side, today, these leading lung cancer organizations and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25) outlined a comprehensive slate of legislation to address the gaping divide between actionable, easily implemented policy and education initiatives and the realities that mean someone in the U.S. dies of lung cancer every 4 minutes.
Convening on Capitol Hill during Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2023, the lung cancer advocates drew attention to both stark statistics on lung cancer, which remains more deadly than the next three most common cancer types combined, and real-world, actionable opportunities to put what we know about lung cancer to work to save lives through earlier intervention, more effective educational outreach, and eliminating needless, counterproductive barriers to access. Additionally, these efforts today are supported by a number of congressional leaders, including Congresswoman Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Senator Dick Durbin (IL), Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Congressman Brendan Boyle (PA-2), and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26).
New data from the American Lung Association show that last year, only 4.5% of those eligible for lung cancer screening nationally were screened. This compares to consistently high national screening rates of 60% to 80% of eligible U.S. adults receiving early detection testing for breast, cervical and colon cancers through mammography, PAP tests, colonoscopy and FIT testing.
“Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer in the United States, taking more lives than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers combined, but we can change this by improving access to early detection and preventative care,” said Congressman Brian Higgins, Co-Chair of the House Cancer Caucus. “During Lung Cancer Awareness Month I am proud to join my colleagues in leading bipartisan legislation that can change outcomes for thousands of lung cancer patients and their families. Together we can eliminate barriers to care and end lung cancer as we know it.”

Close to 238,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. And while the survival rate for lung cancer is rising — particularly among people of color, as reported this week by the American Lung Association — improvements in treatment and care access are not corresponding to gains in lung cancer screening and early detection.
Lung cancer advocates today highlighted the Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act (H.R. 4286), which Representatives Higgins, Castor and Fitzpatrick sponsored and re-introduced in June. The bill would:

  • Increase access to annual lung cancer screening, as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), by removing barriers such as prior authorization and cost sharing for all eligible individuals.
  • Increase access to quit smoking treatments and counseling for all Medicaid recipients.
  • Establish a nationwide public awareness campaign to raise awareness of the importance of lung cancer screenings and the eligibility criteria for who should receive such screenings.

Additionally, advocates highlighted the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act (S.2245; H. R. 4534) — introduced in the Senate by Senator Marco Rubio (FL), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Senator Joseph Manchin (WV), Senator Padilla (CA), Senator Tina Smith (MN), Senator Mark Kelly (AZ) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT), and in the House by Representative Brendan Boyle (PA-2), Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-6), Representative Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Representative Jamie Raskin (MD-8). The legislation would:

  •  Require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct an interagency review of the status of women and lung cancer, including the status of existing research and current knowledge gaps; opportunities for collaborative research to determine the causes of lung cancer and advance prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment; and recommendations for a national cancer screening strategy and public education campaign.

Nationally, only 26.6% of lung cancers are diagnosed early, and 44% of cases are not caught until a late stage, when the survival rate is only 8%.

Experts from National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers have helped lead the national push for legislative change regarding lung cancer screening, treatment and outreach.

“We know screening to detect lung cancers early saves lives, we know who we should be screening, we know screening is painless, noninvasive, quick and cost-effective, and yet we have shockingly low rates of lung cancer early detection. We have to do better for the tens of thousands who will be diagnosed with lung cancer each month this year, and we know what some of the biggest barriers are that we have to tackle to get there,” said Mary Reid, Ph.D., chief of cancer screening and survivorship at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, who spoke at the event. 
“Collectively, we need to do whatever it takes to get more people screened for lung cancer. Americans should know who qualifies for screening and that these screenings save lives. Together, we are asking Congress to support reimbursement for screening, fund new sites for screening and remove any barriers for patients,” said Jhanelle Gray, M.D., chair of the Department of Thoracic Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.
“My family has been devastated by lung cancer. My father, mother, two sisters, brother and husband smoked most of their lives, and all died from this terrible disease,” said Martha Hike, lung cancer advocate. “It is critical that everyone has access to this lifesaving screening, as well as resources to quit smoking. I urge our members of Congress to support the Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act, which covers both of these critical efforts.”

"Investing in lung cancer screening is essential because it’s our best chance at early detection,” said physician and lung cancer survivor and Sydney Barned, MD.” Lung cancer often lies hidden, asymptomatic until its advanced stages. Screening can save lives by catching the disease when it is most treatable."
“The time to act is now as we bring heightened awareness during National Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President & CEO of GO2 for Lung Cancer. “For more than a decade we have been advocating to reduce stigma — especially for women who are uniquely impacted by lung cancer — through our Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Service Act. We thank all the members who are working in a bipartisan bicameral fashion to help raise public awareness, increase access to life-saving screening, and accelerate investment in more personalized treatments to transform survivorship for all impacted by lung cancer.”  
“Health inequity is a highly complex problem, and our current health system is failing medically underserved populations, including those at a high risk for lung cancer,” stated Andrea Ferris, President and CEO of LUNGevity Foundation. “Low screening rates and lack of early detection — particularly in underserved communities — remain obstacles to further progress against lung cancer. Together, we are asking Congress to ensure that everyone has the same access to trusted resources to detect and treat lung cancer, and ultimately opportunities for best-case outcomes.”

“Lung cancer’s burden on families, individuals and our healthcare system is far too great. Lung cancer screening is key to early diagnosis, and early diagnosis saves lives,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “The Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act will help us improve access to lung cancer screening for people at the highest risk for the disease. In addition, it will expand access to quit smoking services to everyone enrolled in Medicaid. Quitting smoking will lower the risk of lung cancer and is the best thing a person can do for their lung health. Thank you to the members of Congress who are supporting this bill, as well as the strong coalition of organizations advocating for greater access to lung cancer screening."

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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