The Power of Lung Cancer Social Media (#LCSM)

Today the Seattle Times published a guest op-ed piece co-authored by myself and Renée Klein, the President and CEO of the American Lung Association (ALA) of the Mountain Pacific.  You can read it here: Medicare should cover low-dose CT screening for lung cancer.

While I hope you’ll read it, that’s not why I’m blogging today.  I’m blogging because I want you to know something.

This op-ed piece was made possible by the power of Lung Cancer Social Media (#LCSM).

When I proposed co-authoring this piece to Renée, she enthusiastically agreed. However, we only had two days and 650 words in which to write it.  I knew the piece required a lot of facts to support the opinion, but which facts about lung cancer screening with low dose CT would have the most impact? Which facts were the most current?  How should we structure the facts to make our point within word count? And where on the web were the sources? The Seattle Times required links to sources before they would accept the piece.

The Lung Association had several necessary facts collected with source citations on one of their webpages.  Their researchers found a few more.  The rest were scattered all over the web. I didn’t have much time to find them, especially when I didn’t know which sources we needed yet.

As I sat staring at a blank Word document trying to compose my thoughts, a fellow founding member of the #LCSM Chat, Deana Hendrickson (@LungCancerFaces), texted me about another subject.  Then it hit me.  I had at my literal fingertips a ready-made community of passionate lung cancer patient advocates and healthcare professionals, each of whom had already demonstrated their desire to see Medicare cover lung cancer screening with low dose CT.  In fact, the #LCSM community had created a change.org petition on this subject in February.

So I made use of those connections. I sent emails and Twitter direct messages to other #LCSM Chat regulars: thoracic surgeon Dr. David Tom Cooke (@UCD_ChestHealth), radiation oncologist Dr. Matthew Katz (@subatomicdoc), and fellow advocates Deana, Laronica Conway (@louisianagirl91), and Andrea Borondy Kitts (@findlungcancer).  Even though they were located thousands of miles from me and were busy with their own jobs and lives, they all responded within an hour. Over the next 24 hours, they helped brainstorm the structure of the piece, provided links to sources they knew, and waded through Google for the additional facts needed to round out the argument.  Andrea carried the research one step further by discussing a difficult point with the lead author of a relevant journal article–he just happened to be in a meeting she attended that afternoon– and feeding me answers in real-time texts.  All of them also reviewed rough drafts and added insightful comments.  It’s as if we were intended to work this project together at that particular time.

Because of  the #LCSM community, my co-author, and my writing critique group (who just happened to be meeting the night I completed the first draft), 23 citations were thoroughly researched and four drafts including the final were completed in less than two working days.

I am amazed and humbled by the dedication displayed every day by the #LCSM community in the fight against lung cancer.

Thanks, everyone.  It truly takes a village.

Call to Action: Tell Medicare and Medicaid to Cover Lung Cancer Screening

This is a reblog of a post I wrote for the #LCSM website. Reposted with permission.

Anyone can get lung cancer. Screening for lung cancer with low dose CT scans (LDCT) can save thousands of lives every year. Many private health insurers already provide coverage for this screening.

Tell the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) you want them to provide coverage too. On February 10, CMS opened a 30-day comment period to support their national coverage analysis on Lung Cancer Screening with LDCT. This comment period closes on March 12, 2014.

Please sign this petition to tell CMS to provide coverage for LDCT, and ask everyone you know to sign it too. The results of this petition will be submitted to CMS as a comment on March 11, 2014. You can help save thousands of lives!
Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/centers-for-medicare-medicaid-services-cms-provide-coverage-for-lung-cancer-screening-with-ldct
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People might also want to provide a comment directly to CMS — especially those who are Medicare or Medicaid-eligible and who were either diagnosed with advanced lung cancer or are at high risk for lung cancer.
Comment directly to CMS here:
http://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/details/submit-public-comment.aspx?DocID=274&DocType=nca&DocName=Lung+Cancer+Screening+with+Low+Dose+Computed+Tomography&NCAId=274&bc=AAAAAAAAAAQAAA%3D%3D&

If you are a health care professional who deals with lung cancer or a medical center offering LDCT, please go to this link to read more about the type of information that would be most helpful to CMS, then provide a comment directly to CMS
http://cancergeek.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/call-to-action-performing-low-dose-ct-lung-cancer-screening-please-comment-to-cms/
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For more information about why lung cancer screening with LDCT is important, read on:

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer in the world, and the #2 killer of all types in the United States (per the CDC). In 2012 more than 226,000 people received a new lung cancer diagnosis, and almost 160,000 died of the disease – that’s like a jumbo jet full of passengers dying every single day of the year.

Lung cancer kills so many in part because the majority of patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has already spread outside of the lung. Patients in the early stage of the disease rarely display symptoms.

Lung cancer screening with LDCT can decrease the high mortality rate of lung cancer by detecting the disease before symptoms appear and enabling patients to pursue a cure with surgery. An article in medical journal The Oncologist states “… a national LDCT screening program would save more than 18,000 lives annually.”

At this point, the guidelines recommend LDCT only for older people with high risk factors for lung cancer. Tobacco smoking is the greatest—but not the only—risk factor for lung cancer. An NIH-funded study of 53,454 current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74 showed screening for lung cancer using LDCT could reduce lung cancer deaths in that group by 20%.

LDCT is covered by some private health insurance policies, but it is not currently covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Anyone at any age can get lung cancer, but the risk of getting lung cancer increases with age. Older people (who are at higher risk for lung cancer) may not be able to pay for screening if it is not covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
Lung cancer screening with LDCT is now available in a growing number of medical centers. It is included in National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines and recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, American College of Chest Physicians, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Lung Cancer Alliance, and other organizations focused on lung cancer.

It’s time early detection for lung cancer gets the same attention as other top cancers. Screening for breast and colon cancers increased both awareness and survival for these diseases.

Thank you for supporting the fight against lung cancer!