Newsroom

Date: 11/6/2013

Using New Technologies to help in earliest detection of Lung Cancer

Pulmonologist Gaurav Kumar, MD, demonstrates the SPiN Drive lung navigation system at St. Mary Medical Center.

Patients waiting to hear whether or not they have lung cancer will have answers sooner thanks to a combination of minimally-invasive technologies being used at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer for both men and women, but has an 88 percent survival rate at 10 years when diagnosed at Stage 1. St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, Community Hospital in Munster and St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago are using advanced technologies to screen for lung cancer. Once diagnosed, minimally-invasive technology also is being used to reach and biopsy previously unattainable lesions deep in the lungs.

“The hospitals of Community Healthcare System are consistently on the leading edge of offering new technologies and approaches in treatment that positively affect quality and outcomes for our patients,” said Janice Ryba, CEO of St. Mary Medical Center. “Offering effective, low-cost screening options for individuals who are at high-risk for lung cancer is the first step toward fighting this deadly disease.”

Community Healthcare System hospitals are among the first hospitals in Northern Indiana to provide lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans a method that has recently been supported by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. Reports show that the use of low-dose CT scans as a quick, non-invasive method for early detection of suspicious nodules in the lungs can potentially save lives.

“Our patients, many of whom are smokers or former smokers, worry about their risk of getting lung cancer or dying from it,” St. Catherine Hospital CEO Jo Ann Birdzell said. “A recent National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), compared lung CT scans to chest X-rays and found that getting a lung CT scan lowered the risk of dying of lung cancer. We owe it to our community to offer this latest method of lung cancer screening,” she explained.

"Low dose CT lung screening is a life-saving test as standard X-ray is not sensitive enough to detect cancer at its earliest stage,” said Wassim Shwaiki, MD, pulmonologist on staff at St. Catherine Hospital and Community Hospital. "We want to help people readily access these types of advanced screenings in their local communities."

Once detected through early screening, a nodule or lesion needs to be biopsied to determine if it is cancerous. Until now, surgeons only had a few options for obtaining a biopsy: bronchoscopy, needle biopsy through the chest or surgery.

Of those options, bronchoscopy provides the lowest risk for complications such as bleeding or punctured lung, and allows for reduced radiation exposure. Bronchoscopy is performed by using a scope with a camera that allows the pulmonologist to directly see into the airways and conduct biopsies. However, small lesions deeper in the lung tissue are difficult to biopsy by bronchoscopy and the test can be inconclusive - produce a diagnosis for only about 14 percent of those lesions (within the outer two-thirds of the chest) that are smaller than 2 cm in diameter.

St. Mary Medical Center and Community Hospital offer new minimally-invasive technology that provides more efficient access to biopsy suspicious lesions deep in the lungs than before.

Electromagnetic navigation technology, called SPiNDrive®, safely guides surgeons and pulmonologists through the airways to reach and examine lesions that are deep in the lungs.

“Performing these procedures at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System is a milestone in the detection and treatment of lung cancer," said Donald P. Fesko, CEO at Community Hospital. “The SPiNDrive technology provides the needed accuracy and efficient workflow that enables our physicians to diagnose and treat lung cancer in a way that makes a significant impact to our patients.”

“We are pleased to be able to offer a minimally-invasive alternative for our patients to diagnose lesions deep in the lungs,” said Pulmonologist Gaurav Kumar, MD, on staff at St. Mary Medical Center. “A major concern for lung patients is the early detection and diagnosis of lung cancer. If found early; curative treatment can be offered that is highly effective.”

SPiNDrive technology is a state-of-the-art system that uses electromagnetic navigation, similar to a vehicle’s onboard GPS system. The SPiNDrive works with a CT image of the patient’s lung to automatically create a route or road map for the pulmonologist through the lung’s natural airways that lead to the lesion. With special instrumentation that shows the lungs in real-time (and automatically compensates for breathing), the surgeon is better able to biopsy hard-to-reach lesions and place markers for planned treatment if necessary, at the same time.

“While SPiNDrive is relatively new, we can already see benefits to our patients who need to have a bronchoscopy, but may have complications,” said Pulmonologist Puneet Sethi, MD, on staff at Community and St. Catherine Hospitals. “SPiNDrive is typically performed in an outpatient setting. In many cases, patients identified with a lesion on their lung are not surgical candidates. The SPiNDrive system reduces the need for patients to further undergo needle biopsy or surgical biopsy because we can now safely navigate, sample and prepare to treat a suspicious lesion in one procedure without invasive surgery,” he said.

For a pulmonologist on staff at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, call our free physician referral line at 219-836-3477 or toll-free 866-836-3477.