Innovative diagnostic and treatment options for third most common cancer in U.S. − lung cancer

By: Nilesh Vora, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, and is often found later in a less treatable stage. Even more concerning is data that shows that cancer screenings across the country were down between 83 to 90 percent amid the pandemic. Cancer screenings find cancer early, often before symptoms occur. The earlier a cancer is found, the more effective treatments may be.

Similar to other screening tests, such as a mammogram or colonoscopy, it’s important for people at risk for lung cancer to consider lung cancer screening as a regular preventive health check. Lung cancer screening can result in more lung cancer cases being caught at an earlier, more treatable stage.

For people at high risk for lung cancer, including those with a history of smoking, Long Beach Medical Center offers a low-dose radiation computed tomography (CT) scan to screen for lung cancer. A Lung cancer screening with a CT scan is recommended annually if you:

  • Are between 55- and 80-years-old and
  • Are currently a smoker or have quit within the past 15 years and
  • Have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years (or equivalent)

This low-dose screening CT uses significantly less radiation compared to a standard diagnostic CT scan. A low-dose CT scan also takes significantly less time – the actual scan is less than a minute – making this screening convenient.

The same way a colonoscopy doesn’t guarantee you have colon cancer; a lung cancer screening scan does not mean your doctor thinks you have lung cancer. For every 100 people screened, approximately one will be found to have cancer. So don’t be scared of the results or put it off – it’s actually deadlier if you ignore it.

Even if a lung nodule (growth on the lung) is detected on a lung screening, not all lung nodules are caused by lung cancer. Each case is reviewed at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center by a team of multi-disciplinary experts, including pulmonologists, radiologists and thoracic surgeons to determine the most direct, least invasive approach to diagnosing and treating lung nodules.

If cancer is detected, the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute offers the latest in targeted treatments, radiation therapy and surgery, including the da Vinci® Xi™ – a minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgical system.

Traditional “open” surgery for lung cancer requires the surgeon to make a long incision between the ribs and then spread the ribs apart so that the surgeon can see and work on the lung. But with minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgical using the da Vinci® Xi™ system, surgeons only need to make a few small incisions and don’t require spreading apart the ribs.

Through the small incisions, doctors insert surgical equipment and a camera. The da Vinci system translates every hand movement the surgeon makes in real time to bend and rotate the instruments with precision. This minimally invasive technique results in shorter hospital stays, faster recovery and less scarring.

By combining the latest in imaging and surgical technology, the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute ensures each patient has a surgical plan tailored to their unique needs that results in the best outcomes.

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