Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer in America, killing more people each year than breast and colon cancers combined. This is true, despite the fact that it is only the third most common cancer behind skin and breast for women, and prostate for men. The reason that lung cancer is so deadly is that by the time patients show symptoms, it is usually at an advanced stage and very difficult to achieve a long-lasting cure. We can do better.
One of the most significant advances in lung cancer diagnosis has been the adoption of low-dose lung screening CT scans. “Low-dose” means that the amount of radiation from one CT scan, which needs to be done yearly, is the same as one would receive on transcontinental flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Similar to imaging with mammography to detect early breast cancer, low-dose lung screening CT scans for smokers who have smoked one pack a day for 20 years and are between the ages of 55 and 80, has been shown to identify early lung cancer. This allows the patient to be treated with a much higher long-term survival rate.
Elliot Hospital was an early adopter of low-dose lung screening CT scans, starting our program in 2017. Since that time, The Elliot has performed over 6,000 scans and found more than 75 lung cancers, the majority of which were at a very early stage.
Elliot Hospital has also been performing robot-assisted, minimally invasive lung surgery for the last five years. In conjunction with applying Cryonerve block, we have found that we can safely remove these lung cancers with very minimal discomfort. This allows the patient to have a faster recovery and return to their daily activities much sooner. In fact, Elliot Hospital is a leader in this field, and we have several recently published studies demonstrating a significant reduction in the need for narcotics after these procedures. We have found that this minimally invasive surgery has less complications and earlier return of the patient to their preoperative daily activities.
If a patient with early-stage lung cancer is not a surgical candidate, Elliot Hospital can also offer focused beam radiation therapy, which can turn the cancer into scar tissue with very few side effects.
Here at Elliot Hospital, we are committed to finding lung cancers as early as possible. This allows the patient to seek the treatment option that will achieve the best chance of cure and help them continue with their quality of life.
For more information about Low Dose CT (LDCT) lung cancer screening, visit Elliot Hospital | Lung Cancer Screening at Elliot Health System.
Dr. Curtis Quinn is a board-certified thoracic surgeon at Elliot Hospital. He performed his undergraduate medical school general surgical training and cardiothoracic surgical training at Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center. He served as medical director of the multidisciplinary thoracic oncology program at Waukesha Memorial Hospital in Milwaukee, WI. He then moved south to Charleston, S.C., where he developed an aggressive program for lung cancer screening and minimally invasive robotic lung cancer surgery. Dr. Quinn was one of the first thoracic surgeons to adopt Navigational Bronchoscopy in 2008 and then combined it with robotic surgery to help target and remove small early lung cancers in a minimally invasive way. He also was actively involved in the early use of cryoanalgesia: a nerve freezing technique designed to minimize post-operative pain and help reduce opioids usage in post-operative lung surgery patients.