CMS expands cancer coverage

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will expand coverage for cancer screening and medications. The shift will provide nursing home residents and other elderly faster access to innovative cancer treatments, according to CMS Administrator Mark McClellan.

Screening procedures to be covered include the use of positron emission tomography, or PET scans for cervical cancer, and PET to diagnose a broad range of cancers.

Also included in the expansions is coverage for additional "off-label" uses in clinical studies for cancer medications that are already approved for colorectal cancer, including oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), irinotecan (Camptosar), bevacizumab (Avastin), and cetusimab (Erbitux).

To measure and improve the quality of care for Medicare patients, CMS also approved a $300 million, one-year nationwide demonstration program open to all oncologists. The initiative is aimed at exploring pain, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue among cancer patients.