New Jefferson Lung Cancer Screening Program Builds On Latest Research For Early Diagnosis
Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and worldwide, is often caught too late. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital experts in pulmonary and critical care, radiology, thoracic surgery, and medical and radiation oncology have teamed up to launch a novel effort to screen, diagnose and treat lung cancer in its earliest stages.
This summer, results from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, a large nationwide trial of more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74, showed 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among participants screened with low-dose spiral CT, or helical CT, compared to those who were screened with the traditional chest X-ray.
“We are acting on this game-changing research to make spiral CT and the necessary follow-up care available in a one-day, low-cost multidisciplinary screening program,” said Mani Kavuru, MD, director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Jefferson University Hospital.
Spiral CT uses X-rays to obtain a multiple-image scan of the entire chest compared to a standard chest X-ray that produces a single image of the whole chest in which anatomic structures overlie one another.
The Lung Cancer Screening Program targets high-risk patients with a smoking history of 30 pack years (one pack/day for 30 years, two packs/day for 15 years, etc.) and who are over the age of 55. Patients are offered the recommended low-dose spiral CT scan, a reading by a Jefferson radiologist, a consultation with the pulmonologist to review the results, and any follow-up appointments that need to be scheduled and/or smoking cessation counseling in one visit in one location for $350, including parking. CT scans for screening purpose are not currently covered by insurance.
“The mortality rates for patients diagnosed with lung cancer are staggeringly high because the cancer is usually advanced when found,” said Rita Axelrod, M.D., lung cancer specialist at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center and professor of Medical Oncology. “However, it doesn't have to be that way. Our multidisciplinary program will allow us to better identify high-risk patients who otherwise may have waited too long, and find the disease at an earlier stage when appropriate treatment is more effective. When this cancer is caught early—before it spreads to the lymph nodes or other organs—the survival rate increases.”
Kavuru added, “Our program makes low-dose CT scans easily available to the high-risk, asymptomatic patient. Research shows that early diagnosis using spiral CT can save lives. This is our goal.”
Earlier this year, the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care introduced a pulmonary nodule clinic to further analyze suspicious findings of a “spot on the lungs” of patients throughout the hospital, often found through routine chest x-ray during pre-admission testing for an unrelated procedure. The clinic has been successful in identifying and treating early-stage malignant tumors, and potentially saving lives.
The clinic is now growing to provide a total program for fast, easy, affordable diagnosis, treatment and education for those at highest risk for lung cancer.
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