The U.S Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed new lung cancer screening guidelines in 2021, and as of Feb. 10, 2022, the changes have been officially enacted. The qualifying age for lung cancer screening is now 50 instead of 55, and tobacco history qualifications are reduced from 30 pack years to 20. One pack year is equivalent to smoking one pack per day for one year. This initiative makes lung cancer screening more accessible to the public.

How Do You Qualify for Lung Cancer Screening in 2022?

The new guidelines state that if you’re above the age of 50 and currently smoke, or you’ve quit smoking within the last 15 years, you likely qualify for a Medicare-covered annual lung cancer screening. Your tobacco history, or pack years, can also qualify you for lung cancer screening with a low dose CT scan.

Even though the American Cancer Society predicted 131,180 lung cancer deaths in 2022, less than 15% of Americans are getting tested. By lowering the qualifying age and smoking history requirements, it can help beneficiaries receive the testing they need before it is too late.

Qualification Changes for Lung Cancer Screening

Previous Current (as of February 2021)
  • Adults 55-77 years old
  • 30-pack-year smoking history
  • Adults 50-77 years old
  • 20-pack-year smoking history 

Source: CMS

A low dose CT scan can reduce lung cancer mortality by 20% to 33% for high-risk patients by catching the cancer early. A low dose CT scan is an x-ray that takes multiple pictures of your lungs, creating a detailed image that can show early-onset cancer.

How to Get Lung Cancer Screening

You must receive your lung cancer screening treatment from a radiologist with board certification and counseling documentation. You must also receive an order for the low-dose CT scan after confirming you meet all the qualifications.

Qualifications for Lung Cancer Screening

  • Age 50-77 years old
  • Asymptomatic (no symptoms of lung cancer)
  • Tobacco history of at least 20 pack years
  • Current smoker or if you’ve quit within the last 15 years

Source: CMS

The American Lung Association has a finder tool for lung cancer screening facilities and a doctor conversation guide if you have more questions about your eligibility.

Nearly 10% of asymptomatic lung cancer is caught when doing low dose CT scans for other health reasons. By lowering the age from 55 to 50, more patients will be able to catch cancer early on with the Medicare-covered annual lung cancer screening.