Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) applauds the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) decision to provide coverage of annual low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening for patients ages 55 to 77 years with at least a 30 pack-year smoking history.

“Today signals a new day where lung cancer transitions from the No. 1 cancer killer to a treatable, curable disease. With thousands of preventable deaths every year due to lung cancer, this important decision has the potential to make a significant difference for our patients,” said Christopher Lee, MD, assistant professor of radiology, Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Lung cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to detect early, and this gives patients a fighting chance. Here at Keck Medicine of USC, we commit to those at risk to provide high-quality screening and follow-up care.”

The Medicare ruling specifies that patients must also be asymptomatic, be a current smoker or one who has quit smoking within the last 15 years, and the scan must be ordered by a physician. The Keck Medicine of USC Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer program can assist with coordinating a physician consultation. To schedule a low-dose CT scan, call (323) 680-3534 or email

For more information on qualifications from Medicare, go to

This ruling finalizes a draft decision issued in November 2014 that brings the benefit of lung cancer screening to approximately 5 million American seniors, the most at-risk group for the disease. This represents close to half of the entire at-risk public who would qualify for screening.

The decision also follows a recommendation in December 2013 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that adults ages 55 to 80 years with at least a 30 pack-year smoking history and who currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years undergo annual low-dose CT screening for lung cancer.

Since 2013, the Keck Medicine of USC Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer program has offered low-dose CT scans of the chest for lung cancer screening at a reduced cost of $99. The program brings together a comprehensive team of specialists in a personalized environment, and with its low-dose CT program, has established itself as being on the leading edge of lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“For Keck Medicine of USC, the decision to screen began long before this decision from Medicare,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, Lung Cancer Alliance president and CEO. “We applaud this lifesaving pro-activeness. These are our heroes who are on the front line, putting the needs of those at risk first.”

Existing data show that low-dose CT screening is the only proven way to detect lung cancer early enough to save lives. One of the largest randomized controlled clinical trials in National Cancer Institute history showed that low-dose CT screening could reduce lung cancer mortality rates by at least 20 percent, a significant improvement for a cancer that currently has a five-year overall survival rate of only 17 percent. For those diagnosed late stage, survival rates are less than 4 percent.

“Keck Medicine of USC has been at the forefront of affordable, preventive screening for lung cancer,” said Jeffrey Hagen, MD, chief, Division of Thoracic Surgery, Keck Medicine of USC. “This transformative decision is right in line with our commitment to proactive and comprehensive health care for our community.”

Keck Medicine of USC’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer program provides comprehensive follow-up care to patients, bringing together specialists in chest radiology, thoracic surgery, pulmonary medicine and oncology to review each patient’s history, risk factors and low-dose CT findings, and provide the patient and his/her primary physician with their recommendations. The program includes an experienced lung cancer nurse navigator who helps patients from the initial phone call to the first appointment and through their follow-up visits to maintain continuity of care at USC.

Keck Medicine of USC’s lung cancer leadership includes becoming the first worldwide training center for Da Vinci Xi robotic-assisted thoracic surgery in August 2014, and being the first in Southern California to perform lung cancer surgery with the FDA-approved robotic system, which gives surgeons greater dexterity and precision in removing cancerous tissue from the abdomen and chest. The surgery often requires smaller incisions, leading to less pain and faster healing times for patients. The center is led by Jeffrey Hagen, MD, and Daniel Oh, MD, both with Keck Medicine of USC.

by Alison Trinidad