Improving Lung Cancer Screening Access for Individuals With Serious Mental Illness

Journal of American College of Radiology
16 Apr, 2019 ,

Efren J. Flores reviewed the accessibility of Lung Cancer screening in cases with a known Mental Illness. The groups with Mental Illnesses show two to four times greater lung cancer mortality and this is majorly attributed to excessive smoking, delay in the diagnosis of cancer as well as treatment. 

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Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States across all races and ethnicities, but it does not affect everyone equally. Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI), including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, experience two to four times greater lung cancer mortality in part due to high rates of smoking, delays in cancer diagnosis, and inequities in cancer treatment.

Additionally, adults with SMI experience patient, clinician, and health care system–level barriers to accessing cancer screening, such as cognitive deficits that impact understanding of cancer risk, higher rates of poverty and social isolation, patient-provider communication challenges, decreased access to tobacco cessation, and the fragmentation of primary care and mental health care. Despite the proven benefits and mandated coverage by public and private payers, lung cancer screening participation rates remain low among eligible patients, below 4% a year.

Given disparities in other cancer screening modalities, these rates are likely to be even lower among individuals with SMI. This article provides a brief overview of current challenges in lung cancer screening and describes a pilot collaboration between radiology and psychiatry that has potential to improve access to lung cancer screening for individuals with serious mental illness.