Lung cancer screening at Saint Peter’s now covered by Medicare

April 2, 2015

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.:  Saint Peter’s University Hospital officials commended Medicare today for “getting it right” by announcing in February that the cost of lung cancer screening will be covered for those Medicare beneficiaries who meet the requirements: patients who are 55-77 years old and have a 30 pack year history of smoking. Now, those who need it most will have access and coverage for a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer, a test that can save more lives than any cancer test in history.

“This signals a new day when lung cancer transitions from the number one cancer killer to a treatable, curable disease,” said Douglas Frenia, MD, a pulmonologist with Saint Peter’s University Hospital.   


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

“For the Saint Peter’s University Hospital lung screening program, the decision to screen began long before this decision from Medicare,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, Lung Cancer Alliance president & 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 the National Cancer Institute's 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.

Saint Peter’s became the first hospital in Middlesex County to offer low-dose CT screening for the detection and treatment of lung cancer when it launched the program in 2013. The program also features a multidisciplinary team of clinicians who are expert in the management of lung cancer treatment and a broad range of technical and surgical options for lung cancer patients.

Low-dose CT (computed tomography) screening enables physicians to see inside of the human body to diagnose disease at its earliest stages, increasing patients’ chances for curative treatment and long-term survival. The National Cancer Institute reported that one life was saved among every 320 high-risk persons screened using low-dose CT scanning over a two-year period (three screenings).

The Saint Peter’s lung cancer program team is comprised of a patient navigator, nurse practitioner, pulmonologist, thoracic surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, pathologist, and breast surgeon.

Because there has been a significant increase in lung cancer for women, mostly related to smoking, Saint Peter’s is also proud to collaborate with the Saint Peter’s Breast Center research trial. The study (“Low-Dose Computed Tomography (CT) Screening for Women who are at High Risk for Lung Cancer”) is aimed at evaluating women who are at high risk for developing lung cancer over their lifetime.


“Saint Peter’s strongly believes that each individual’s decision to undergo screening is best made jointly with his or her primary care physician,” said Scarlett Szymanski, director of ambulatory oncology and radiology at Saint Peter’s. “As such, we request that patients obtain an order for lung screening from their primary care physician prior to the exam.” Even so, patients may schedule a screening directly with Saint Peter’s.


Most private insurers do not reimburse for low-dose CT screening. Saint Peter’s, however, charges a nominal self-pay rate of $99 per screening. Screenings may be scheduled by calling Saint Peter’s at 732-339-7747 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Smoking remains the strongest and most important preventable cause of lung cancer. Patients who undergo low-dose CT screening and are current smokers will be provided information about smoking-cessation resources that can be found in their community.


Saint Peter’s also offers new CT technology that reduces the dose of a CT “as much as 40 percent on many frequently ordered exams, enabling the best possible CT studies with the lowest possible exposure to patients,” Szymanski said.

About Saint Peter’s University Hospital

Saint Peter’s University Hospital is a 478-bed acute-care teaching hospital sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen. Saint Peter’s is a state-designated children’s hospital and a regional perinatal center, and is a regional specialist in geriatrics, oncology, orthopedics, women’s services, and ambulatory care. The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital provides families with access to a full range of pediatric specialties, including pediatric cardiology through its affiliation with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Saint Peter’s is a sponsor of residency programs in obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and internal medicine, and is a major clinical affiliate with Rutgers University Biomedical and Health Sciences.  Saint Peter’s also sponsors residency programs in radiology and orthopedic surgery. Visit for more information.



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