The American Thoracic Society and the American Lung Association have launched an online toolkit to help medical institutions implement and manage a CT lung cancer screening program. In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial reported that annual low-dose chest CT could save the lives of current and former smokers at high risk of developing lung cancer by detecting the cancer early.

In 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began covering the lung cancer screening test. Plans purchased through state marketplaces and most private insurers are also required to cover the diagnostic test.

Only a small fraction of the estimated 8 million to 9 million individuals who meet the criteria for the screening have taken advantage of this potentially life-saving procedure.

“Hospitals face multiple barriers in implementing lung cancer screening,” says Carey C. Thomson, MD, MPH, director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Mount Auburn Hospital in Massachusetts. Thomson co-chaired the ATS and Lung Association effort with Andrea B. McKee, MD, co-chair of the Lung Cancer Screening Steering Committee and chief of radiation oncology at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Massachusetts.

“These barriers include knowledge gaps regarding current recommendations, CMS lung cancer screening shared decision-making requirements, logistical challenges and limited resources for program implementation, smoker stigmatization and self-stigmatization, and racial bias, among others,” the two physicians say.

To address the challenges institutions face in beginning a lung cancer screening program and managing it successfully, the ATS and the American Lung Association created a Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide now available at The guide was developed by a panel of experts involved in all aspects of U.S. lung cancer screening programs recognized for their high quality.

Importantly, Thomson says, the guide offers several potential solutions to the operational challenges presented by launching a lung cancer screening program. The panelists recognized that successful programs had to work in the context of the particular institutions and practices offering the service.