Lung cancer kills more men and women than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee rank 2, 3 and 4 in the nation for lung cancer incidence and deaths.
“If you put a pin in a map, Memphis is in the center,” said Dr. Todd Robbins, thoracic surgeon and co-director of thoracic multidisciplinary oncology services at Baptist Cancer Center. “Memphis is a high-smoking, high-risk lung cancer area.”
The Baptist Cancer Center is now identifying and screening people who are at high-risk for lung cancer before they display symptoms of the disease. This early identification and screening is important because most people don’t display symptoms until the disease is already advanced and has spread.
“Lung cancer is often identified at a late stage,” said Dr. Robbins. “So researchers decided it was time we consider how can we identify this cancer earlier.”
A National Institute of Health-sponsored National Lung Screening Trial in 2002 compared the effectiveness of two screening methods for detecting lung cancer earlier and reducing lung cancer deaths. Study findings published in 2011 showed a 20 percent increase in survivability among participants who received low-dose helical (spiral) computed tomography versus standard chest X-ray.
“The cost-effectiveness is much greater, and this screening is more effective than mammography for breast cancer and PSA screening for prostate cancer,” said Dr. Robbins.
Eligible candidates include people considered high risk because of their smoking history, family history, or exposure to radon or other cancer-causing agents.
“We’re trying to identify lung cancer earlier … with low dose CAT scan screening,” said Dr. Robbins. “When we do identify cancer, we want it identified by people who can make decisions through a multidisciplinary model and in an expeditious way.”
Baptist is one of a few centers in the country to receive a research award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary model of care for lung cancer patients. The study evaluates whether having all specialists involved at the point of screening leads to earlier consensus on diagnosis and treatment, more expeditious care of patients and better outcomes.
“Intuitively, this makes sense,” said Dr. Robbins. “Intuition is not enough in medicine, so what we’re going to do is have hundreds of people come through the study and then we’re going to look at the data. At the end of three years, we’re going to look at this data … so we can prove it’s better or not better.”
Physicians and patients can contact Kristi Roark at 901-359-8278 or Kristi.firstname.lastname@example.org about lung cancer screening.