Lung cancer remains the most common cause of cancer deaths across the country and the Rochester area. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer. Encouraging people to quit smoking — or preventing them from starting smoking — is a way to save more lives.
However, there are other tools that can also help. Early detection of lung cancer has been shown to increase survival rates. The best way to find lung cancer early is through screening.
According to the American Lung Association, early detection through screening can reduce lung cancer mortality in high-risk groups by 14% to 20%. Unfortunately, in New York State, only about 6% to 7% of people who qualify for lung cancer screening are actually screened.
Although the United States Service Prevention Task Force gave lung cancer screening the same rating as breast or colon cancer screening, this low screening rate still occurred. For adults aged 50 to 80 with a history of smoking 20 pack years (for example, two packs per day for 10 years or half packs per day for 40 years) and are currently smoking or have quit smoking, it is recommended that lung cancer screening be performed within the past 15 years.
The teams of UR Medicine Imaging Sciences and Wilmot Cancer Institute are working to address the problem of low lung cancer screening rates by expanding the region's enhanced lung cancer screening program.
"Lung cancer is usually found in the late stages, which makes the cure more challenging," said Michael Nead, MD, PhD, FCCP, associate professor of medicine, associate professor of medicine and clinical director of UR Medicine pulmonary disease/critical care medicine. "If you meet the criteria, a screening CT scan once a year provides the best chance of finding lung cancer in the curable stage, thus saving lives."
Nead is a member of the UR Medicine team, which recently launched an expanded program designed to make lung cancer screening more accessible.
The plan now has a dedicated team ready to help patients, including a pulmonary practice nurse, a nurse navigator, and a committee leading the decision-making work of the clinic. The team helps patients determine their eligibility. They also arrange and provide screenings and provide the results to patients, letting them know of possible follow-up actions.
"We have been committed to simplifying the registration process," said Kari DePoint of Lung Cancer Screening/Pulmonology Practitioner, MSN, FNP-C. "Screening is simple, painless, and effective."
In addition, when a patient has a lesion that requires a biopsy during the screening process, UR Medicine will soon start using Intuitive's new robotic bronchoscopy system called Ion. The machine can sample smaller lesions with higher accuracy-which means it can help diagnose lung cancer earlier.
Patients can request a referral from their primary care physician to the screening program, or they can contact the program themselves to discuss their eligibility and make an appointment. The program is currently available in Rochester, Dansville and Hornell, and plans to expand to Walesville in 2022.
"We expect lung cancer screening to have an impact on the lives of people in our region," DePoint said.
The team is working closely with the Community Outreach and Participation Office of the Wilmot Cancer Institute and the Office of Primary Care Physicians to encourage people to quit smoking around the available resources, which also plays an important role in saving lives with lung cancer.
Call (877) 728-4543 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about UR Medicine's lung cancer screening program.
For smoking cessation support, please call (585) 287-4539 or email email@example.com to contact a tobacco therapist.