Lung cancer diagnosed early because of new tool

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

Lung cancer – it’s the most common form of cancer and it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. – in fact, one in five of all cancer deaths is due to lung cancer. Catching it early is key. But in the past, only 20 to 30 percent of lung cancers were found at stage one or two. Now, doctors have a new tool to help them to find and diagnose it earlier than ever before.

An x-ray revealed a nodule in Kim Nguyen’s right lung after she complained of severe chest pain.

Differentiating between a benign nodule and a malignant tumor can be difficult and dangerous.

“The old fashioned style with the transthoracic needles aspiration involved a higher level of risk of lung collapse, about 25 percent of those patients, meaning one out of four patients, will have a collapsed lung,” explains interventional pulmonologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Dr. Alejandro Sardi.

But there’s a new way to diagnose and treat patients safer and quicker. First, the CIOS Spin is a portable CT scanner that pinpoints the tumor.

Thoracic surgeon at the same hospital, Dr. Manu Sancheti says, “When we’re passing the needles and passing the probes to get to the nodules, or get to the lung cancers, we can take a CT scan right then and we can see exactly to make sure that we’re putting that needle exactly where it belongs in order to get a diagnosis.”

And second, the ion robotic bronchoscopy uses a camera-equipped catheter to give surgeons a 180 degree view in any direction in the lungs.

“The patient goes to sleep with a nodule of unknown origin or unknown diagnosis, we bring the ion into the operating room, we biopsy it, we diagnose it. If it does come as cancer while they’re still asleep, we go ahead and do the robotic surgery and remove the cancer,” Dr. Sancheti adds.

As for Kim, she was grateful to find out quickly that her tumor was not cancerous.

“If I had wings, I would fly,” she exclaims.

With the one-two combination, doctors are reaching over 85 percent accuracy of diagnosing tumors less than one centimeter and 90 percent accuracy in those greater than two centimeters. The good news is the number of new lung cancer diagnosis continues to decrease. Experts believe this is because more people are quitting smoking, or not starting at all.

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