MSAC to consider national lung cancer screening program

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The Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) will consider the potential adoption of a national lung cancer screening program at its meeting next March or April, almost three years after the federal government commissioned Cancer Australia to develop a report that found strongly in favour of its potential to save lives.

MSAC consideration of a program has been launched with a stakeholder consultation process that is open until mid-February.

The opening of consultation comes more than two years after health minister Greg Hunt requested (August 2019) that Cancer Australia conduct an enquiry into the "prospects, process and delivery of a national lung cancer screening program in Australia."

The organisation conducted a comprehensive review, including a stakeholder consultation process, leading to a final report that was delivered in October last year.

The new process has been launched more than a year after Cancer Australia found in favour of a national screening program to the extent "12,000 lung cancer deaths would be prevented and between 30,000-50,000 quality-adjusted life-years would be gained."

"Further, it is estimated that over 70% of all screen-detected lung cancers would be diagnosed at an early stage compared to less than 20% of lung cancers currently detected at these early stages in Australia," it said.

The late detection of lung cancer is one of the contributing factors to its comparatively low five-year survival rate.

In its review, Cancer Australia found that a national screening program "would enable unprecedented changes in clinical management and address the poor outcomes (incidence, mortality, survival, psychosocial and quality of life) for lung cancer that have been observed over many years."

Australia currently has three national population-based cancer screening programs (BreastScreen, National Cervical Screening Program and Bowel Screening Program.

"All three have been seen as successful health policy initiatives and effective investments in national cancer control. The AIHW combined report on the efficacy of the breast, cervical and bowel screening programs showed that cancers detected through screening were less likely to cause cancer-specific death," said the Cancer Australia report.

MSAC's consultation process will be followed by a health technology assessment of the adoption of a national lung cancer screening program.