Individuals in Minnesota who are considering a spiral CT scan to screen for lung cancer may be interested to learn that although Medicare has approved it for a certain population of heavy smokers, not all doctors recommend the test. According to some physicians, the test returns too many false positives and detects slow-growing cancers that are not dangerous. This can result in further unnecessary testing that carries additional dangers such as a biopsy.
Medicare has approved the test for individuals aged 55 to 77 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day or more for 30 years. In part, the approval is due to a 2011 study showing that spiral CT scans can reduce the incidence of death due to lung cancer by 20 percent. However, almost 25 percent of the study participants had false positives. In the 2011 report, the scans were studied by highly skilled radiologists, risks were clearly explained to participants and doctors were careful about using invasive follow-up methods. However, some doctors argue that these conditions might not be replicated in a typical doctor's office.