Lung cancer kills more Americans each year than any other cancer, but doctors say early detection can make the difference between life and death. Jo Pastula, 60, of Plymouth, is thankful for new robotic technology used to detect her cancer.
Beaumont Hospital, Farmington Hills recently opened a new lung nodule clinic to provide early diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of abnormal pulmonary nodules, which are often discovered as a result of CT scans or chest X-rays for other health conditions. A pulmonary nodule is a round or oval shaped growth in the lung, sometimes referred to as a lesion or spot on the lung.
While lung nodules can be noncancerous, they may be an early sign of lung cancer or indicate that a cancer is spreading throughout the body.
Pulmonologist and medical director of Beaumont’s fourth lung nodule clinic, Dr. Philip Kaplan, said, ”It can take weeks or months for a patient with an abnormal scan to come to the first diagnostic stage. Our clinic’s state-of-the-art technology can dramatically accelerate the diagnostic process.”
Patient Jo Pastula’s lung mass was not accessible using traditional techniques, but thanks to the clinic’s robotic bronchoscopy, Dr. Kaplan was able to perform a biopsy with successful diagnostic results.
Said Pastula, “Without robotic technology, my medical team would not have been able to biopsy the mass in my lung so quickly. The results showed the cells were cancerous. And the next week, I had an appointment with an oncologist to discuss treatment options.”
Dr. Kaplan says the robot, with its flexible endoscope, provides him with continuous vision.
“Our robotic technology allows us to do a real-time evaluation inside the lung. It aids in diagnosing early stage nodules that may be cancerous and in Jo’s case, it’s a wonderful tool for biopsies,” said Dr. Kaplan. “It also can assist with placing lung markers for treatment.”
Causes of lung nodules include tuberculosis; rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis – an inflammation that affects multiple organs, most commonly the lung, lymph nodes and cancer. Fungal infections have also been linked to the appearance of lung nodules.
“The size and shape make a difference. Smaller nodules may require monitoring, but larger nodules could result in a biopsy,” said Dr. Kaplan.
When lung nodules are identified, a nurse navigator will begin communicating with the patient and his or her primary care physician, followed by a consultation with a pulmonologist.
“They’ll work together to guide the patient through the recommended next steps, which could involve treatment by a team of physicians, including thoracic and pulmonary specialists,” Dr. Kaplan explained.
The multidisciplinary lung nodule clinic includes specialists – pulmonologists, oncologists, thoracic surgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists and pathologists, who are also involved with the tumor board. The tumor board reviews individual cases and imaging studies. They discuss alternate treatment options, and talk about clinical trials for which the patient may be eligible.
The new clinic is part of the Interventional Pulmonary Program at Beaumont, Farmington Hills with advanced bronchoscopy.
Current smokers, especially those who have been smoking for many years, or people with a history of cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease are at a higher risk of lung nodules. They should be screened annually.
“In about 15 minutes, a dedicated, low-dose CT scan can cover the entire chest and provide a more detailed look than a standard chest X-ray,” said Dr. Kaplan.
To make an appointment at the Beaumont, Farmington Hills clinic, call 877-805-8647.