Understanding barriers to lung cancer screening in primary care

J Thorac Dis. 2020 May;12(5):2536-2544. doi: 10.21037/jtd.2020.03.66.


Background: Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan for lung cancer screening is underutilized. Studies suggest that up to one-third of providers do not know the current lung cancer screening guidelines. Thus, identifying the barriers to utilization of LDCT scan is essential.

Methods: Primary care providers in three different healthcare settings in the United States were surveyed to assess provider knowledge of LDCT scan screening criteria, lung cancer screening practices, and barriers to the utilization of LDCT scan screening. Fisher's Exact, Chi-Squared, and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to compare provider responses. Multivariable logistic regression was used to test the association between provider characteristics and the likelihood of utilizing LDCT scan for lung cancer screening.

Results: The survey was sent to 614 providers, with a 15.7% response rate. Overall, 29.2% of providers report never ordering LDCT scans for eligible patients. Providers practicing at a community or academic hospital more frequently order LDCT scans than those practicing at a safety net hospital. Academic- and community-based providers received a significantly higher mean knowledge score than safety net-based providers [academic 6.84 (SD 1.33), community 6.72 (SD 1.46), safety net 5.85 (SD 1.38); P<0.01]. Overall, only 6.2% of respondents correctly identified all six Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services eligibility criteria when challenged with three incorrect criteria. Common barriers to utilization of LDCT scan included failure of the electronic medical record (EMR) to notify providers of eligible patients (54.7%), patient refusal (37%), perceived high false-positive rate leading to unnecessary procedures (18.9%), provider time constraints (16.8%), and lack of insurance coverage (13.7%).

Conclusions: Provider knowledge of lung cancer screening guidelines varies, perhaps contributing to underutilization of LDCT scan for lung cancer screening. Improved provider education at safety net hospitals and improving EMR-based best practice alerts may improve the rate of lung cancer screening.

Keywords: CT scan; Lung cancer; screening.