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Lung Cancer Screening Might Pay Off, Analysis Shows
Date:4/9/2012

By Carina Storrs
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Screening people at high risk for lung cancer could be at least as cost-effective as screening for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers, a new study suggests.

A group of actuaries specializing in the health care industry estimated how much private insurance companies would pay and the survival benefits that would follow if they covered lung cancer screening. They based their study on using a scanning technology called low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) on people between the ages of 50 and 64 who were at high risk for developing lung cancer due to their smoking history.

The authors estimated that screening high-risk people would cost providers less than $19,000 for every year of life saved. The study was published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

In comparison, the costs per life-year saved for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer screening -- the three types of screening that have widespread support in the United States -- are at least about $31,000, $19,000 and $50,000, respectively, according to the authors, who updated estimates from previous analyses.

The authors also estimated that insurance rates would increase by 76 cents per month if half of the eligible members got screening.

"[Lung cancer] is a very deadly kind of cancer, but it is also concentrated in a relatively small group of people who have a history of smoking. That's why the economics makes such powerful sense here," said study author Bruce Pyenson, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman, based in New York City.

About 220,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,000 will die from the disease in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society. The five-year survival rate after diagnosis is only about 16 percent, in part because most people have advanced lung cancer by the time they are diagnosed.

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