Lung cancer remains the most common cause of cancer death nationwide and in the Rochester area. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer. Encouraging people to quit smoking – or keep them from starting – is one way to work toward saving more lives.
However, there are other tools that could help, too. Finding lung cancer early has been proven to improve survival rates. The best way to find lung cancer early is through screening.
Early detection through screening can decrease lung cancer mortality by 14 to 20 percent among those at high risk, according to the American Lung Association. Unfortunately, in New York State, only about 6 to 7% of those eligible for lung cancer screening actually get screened.
This low screening rate occurs despite the U.S. Services Preventive Task Force giving lung cancer screening the same rating as screening for breast cancer or colon cancer. Lung cancer screening is recommended for adults age 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history (which is two packs a day for 10 years or half a pack a day for 40 years, as examples) and who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
Teams at UR Medicine Imaging Sciences and Wilmot Cancer Institute are working to address low rates of lung cancer screening by expanding an enhanced lung cancer screening program in the region.
“Lung cancer is often detected at later stages, making cure more challenging,” says Michael Nead, M.D., Ph.D., FCCP, Associate Professor of Medicine and Clinical Director, Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine at UR Medicine. “If you meet the criteria, an annual screening CT scan offers the best chance of catching lung cancer at a curable stage and thereby saving lives.”
Nead is part of the team at UR Medicine that recently launched the expanded program aimed at making it easier for people to get lung cancer screening.
The program now has a dedicated team ready to help patients, including a pulmonary nurse practitioner, a nurse navigator, and a committee leading the decision-making efforts for the clinic. The team helps patients determine their eligibility. They also schedule and deliver the screening and provide the results to the patients, letting them know what the follow up may need to be.
“We have worked to simplify the enrollment process,” says Kari DePoint, MSN, FNP-C, Nurse Practitioner for Lung Cancer Screening/Pulmonology. “Screening is easy, painless, and it works.”
Additionally, when a patient is found during screening to have a lesion that needs to be biopsied, UR Medicine will soon begin using a new type of robotic bronchoscopy system by Intuitive called the Ion. The machine is able to sample smaller lesions with increased accuracy – which means it could help diagnose lung cancer even earlier.
Patients may ask their primary care physician for a referral to the screening program, or they may contact the program themselves to discuss their eligibility and make an appointment. The program is currently available in Rochester, Dansville, and Hornell, with plans to expand to Wellsville in 2022.
“We look forward to the impact that lung cancer screening can have on the lives of those in our region,” says DePoint.
The team is collaborating closely with Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Community Outreach and Engagement Office as well as primary care physician offices around resources available to encourage people to quit smoking, which also plays a major part in saving lives from lung cancer.
For support in quitting smoking, contact a tobacco treatment specialist at (585) 287-4539 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.