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Published on August 21, 2018

Low-dose CT proving instrumental in early-stage lung cancer detection

Every year, about 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer and 150,000 people die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These numbers are slowly changing.

"With the advent of low-dose CT for people at high risk of lung cancer, we've recently seen a shift in the number of early-stage lung cancers being diagnosed," says pulmonologist Srinivas Bhadriraju, MD, who oversees the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic at Gundersen Health System.

"By starting with low-dose CT as a screening, our patients have been more comfortable that they are getting fully evaluated. I can't count how many current or past smokers came in with the worry of lung cancer. We'd go through an entire physical, or visit for a different issue, but they were only thinking about lung cancer and felt too ashamed or afraid to bring it up," explains Lucas Hammell, DO, Family Medicine, Gundersen Spring Grove Clinic.

Dr. Hammell continues, "Automating our practice with reminders and the low-dose CT has not only improved patient satisfaction but helped us manage findings earlier in the process. It has been night and day how we've been able to identify nodules and monitor them over time."

Pulmonary Nodule Clinic extends care

At Gundersen, if a pulmonary nodule is found—even nodules that are incidentally identified—patients receive prompt follow-up by the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic team. They follow patients through diagnosis, treatment in our Multidisciplinary Lung Clinic if they are positive for cancer, or continued care oversight for two years.

Lucas Hammell, DO

Lucas Hammell, DO

"The clinic is so supportive of not only my patients, but also of me as a provider. They take a lot of worry off my chest, knowing that they are a back-up to me. They don't take over, as many providers would fear or be aggravated by, but are more an extension and a back drop for my practice," states Dr. Hammell.

Gundersen pulmonologists are also equipped with many robust interventional pulmonary procedures, such as:

  • endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)
  • radial endobronchial ultrasound (R-EBUS)
  • electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy (ENB)

"Surviving lung cancer is dramatically different when it is detected early and still localized in the lungs. In fact, the five-year survival rate is 55 percent when detected early. When a person develops symptoms, lung cancer is much harder to treat, with the five-year survival rate dropping to about 17 percent. This, alone, is a huge incentive for people at high-risk to get screened," explains Dr. Bhadriraju.

To refer a patient or request a second opinion, contact the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic via MedLink at (608) 775-5465 or (800) 336-5465.

Impact of screening on early-stage lung cancer diagnosis at Gundersen

Before lung cancer screening implementation
19 percent of lung cancers diagnosed at stage 1

After lung cancer screening implementation and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reimbursement
64 percent of lung cancers diagnosed at stage 1

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