MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU Cancer Institute is applying for a Certificate of Need with the West Virginia Health Care Authority for a mobile lung cancer screening program, which will be called LUCAS. This program would increase access to screening for patients in rural areas and address the growing demand for cancer services in the state.
Nationally, fewer than 2 percent of people who are eligible receive lung cancer screening. In nearly 75 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancers, the disease has already spread to other areas of the body, making it more difficult to treat. It is the goal of this program to provide early detection in order for those diagnosed with lung cancer to have better long-term outcomes.
“We are facing a cancer epidemic in our state,” Richard Goldberg, M.D., director of the WVU Cancer Institute, said. “West Virginia saw 1,134 lung cancer deaths in 2017. This new mobile lung cancer screening program allows us to have a greater reach in rural areas and provide lung cancer screening services to the community. If we can detect these cancers early, we can make a significant impact in the number of related deaths.”
When a new bus was purchased for the Bonnie’s Bus program, the WVU Cancer Institute raised more than $1.55 million in philanthropic commitments over five years to refurbish the old bus to house the LUCAS mobile lung cancer screening program. The program will serve the 42 West Virginia counties that do not currently have access to a Medicare-certified lung cancer screening provider.
The construction of the bus is expected to be complete within six months of Certificate of Need approval and includes the installation of a new box and low dose CT scanner. Patients needing additional screening or diagnosis will be referred to providers in their community for treatment.
“In places like rural West Virginia, many do not have the resources to travel to get a screening test,” Sara Jane Gainor, program development lead for the LUCAS mobile lung screening program said. “What we learned from Bonnie’s Bus is that taking it to the community is a real benefit to the patients because it is accessible to them.”
Patients must meet the National Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines in order to receive screening through the project. An annual low dose CT scan is recommended for people who are between the ages of 55 and 80, have a 30 pack-year smoking history, and are either a current smoker or a smoker who quit in the past 15 years.
As a part of the screening evaluation, individuals will receive a consultation on why and how to stop using tobacco products. Referrals may still be made for individuals who are outside of these guidelines, however it will be at the discretion of the primary care physician and will impact insurance coverage. An order to receive the screening must be written by the patient’s primary care provider.
The program will accept Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Funding will be available to assist patients who do not have insurance or other coverage.