Illinois residents may not be aware of a recent announcement that Medicare would cover the costs of annual lung cancer screening tests for program recipients between the ages of 55 and 77. In order to qualify for free testing, those recipients must have smoked a pack of cigarettes or the equivalent each day for at least 30 years. The eligible test is known as a spiral CT scan, and studies have shown that such screening has the potential to reduce the rate of lung cancer fatalities by 20 percent.
Lung cancer results in approximately 150,000 deaths in the United States annually, but some health professionals have expressed concerns about preventative testing. One physician has stated that spiral CT scans have a high risk of detecting non-cancerous growths as well as cancerous growths that are not likely to cause significant problems. False-positive results can lead to potentially harmful procedures, such as a needle biopsy of the lung, for no valid reason. In some cases, a needle biopsy can result in a collapsed lung.
An independent task force reviewed the 2011 study on which the 2015 Medicare coverage decision was based and concluded that the benefits of spiral CT screening outweighed the risks. Nonetheless, concerns have been raised that the conditions of the study will not replicate well in day-to-day practice. There is also the concern that many doctors will not be as diligent as the radiologists in the study in avoiding unnecessary and invasive tests.
Despite concerns about the negative effects of false-positive results, a failure to diagnose is a potentially fatal medical mistake. A missed diagnosis of lung cancer can increase the risk of death and other medical issues related to smoking. A medical malpractice lawyer might assist victims of a failure to diagnose lung cancer in seeking the compensation they are entitled to for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.