Section: Highlights

Lung Cancer: Reasons to Hope

04/26/2019
Lung Cancer: Reasons to Hope

Lung cancer kills more Americans than the next three cancers—breast, colon and prostate—combined. Typically only caught in its later stages, survival rates have not improved significantly in decades.

St. Jude Medical Center is a national leader in changing that statistic through state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment—including robotic surgery to more precisely remove the cancer, a technique which St. Jude was recently recognized as among the nation’s best.

Yet the most powerful tool in dramatically increasing survival rates may be far simpler: a lung CT scan.

“Low-dose CT screening can detect even small lung abnormalities and is considered the gold standard in finding lung cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage,” explains Daniel Oh, MD, nationallyrespected thoracic surgeon at St. Jude who oversees the hospital’s new Lung Cancer Screening Clinic. “Just as mammography and colonoscopy have significantly improved patient outcomes, routine lung screening can shift diagnosis from late-stage to early, far more curable stages.”

Who should be screened?

The clinic is designed to make screening and education easy and convenient for those most at risk of lung cancer—former or current heavy smokers. Low-dose CT screening is covered by insurance for those who have smoked a pack a day for 30 or more years—or smoked for 20 years and have an additional risk factor, such as COPD or other lung disease, occupational exposure to asbestos or diesel fumes, or a family history of lung cancer. Heavy smokers who have quit in the last 15 years should also be screened.

Despite being a covered benefit, less than 5 percent of those who need to be screened are. “Lung CTs can identify cancer before there any clinical signs or symptoms, making it invaluable in saving lives,” says Joy Amundson, MSN, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, the clinic, explaining a face-to-face visit with either her or the patient’s physician comes first. “It’s important for patients to understand both the risks and benefits.”

Expert diagnosis and follow-up

If a lung nodule or “spot” is found, the patient’s scans and medical history are reviewed by a multidisciplinary team—including a radiologist, pulmonologist and Dr. Oh—to determine what, if any, follow-up is needed.

“Most nodules are benign, a few require ‘watchful waiting’ and a few require immediate testing,” explains Dr. Oh, Associate Professor of Surgery at USC and Medical Director of the St. Jude Center for Thoracic and Esophageal Diseases. “By using new evidence-based protocols to minimize unneeded or invasive procedures, we offer patients the right care at the right time.”

To schedule a lung cancer screening, please call (714) 446-5830.

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