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Medicare approves annual spiral CT scans for smokers

In February 2015, Medicare make an announcement that it would pay for annual spiral CT scans for regular smokers aged 55 to 77. The decision was influenced by a 2011 report that claimed regular CT scans could reduce lung cancer deaths through early detection. Doctors and radiologists have had mixed reactions to the study's recommendations because of the potential of false positives during this test. The presence of abnormal growths could lead doctors in New Mexico and other states to order more invasive and dangerous tests such as lung biopsies to determine if patients have cancer. In the United States, over 150,000 people die each year of lung cancer, making it one of the most prevalent causes of death in the country.

A doctor in Columbia, Maryland, claims that spiral CT scans would lead to more than 233 false positives for every 1,000 people tested and would only detect early cancer in 3.5 people out of every 1,000. A professor of medicine at Dartmouth claims that the study, conducted by the National Lung Screening Research Team, would be hard to duplicate in real world environments because the radiologists in the study were specialized in detecting lung cancer growths. Sometimes, growths in the lungs can be cancerous but non-harmful because of their slow growth patterns.

The 2011 study looked at a population of regular smokers, a group with a higher risk for lung cancer. In the study, false positives were more common for patients undergoing radiographies than low-dose CT scans.

A doctor's failure to diagnose cancer can result in a patient's death. If a family member has died because of a medical facility's misdiagnosis or lack of proper treatment, their children, spouses or parents may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. They may be entitled to damages related to pain and suffering, funeral and medical costs and loss of services or future earning potential for a doctor's or medical facility's negligence.

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