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Vidant Health, ECU committed to prevention and early detection of lung cancer

December 10, 2015 by Amy Holcombe

GREENVILLE - For Outer Banks native Mary Ellen Hinish, a low-dose CT scan led to physicians removing a cancerous mass from her lung. Now cancer-free, Hinish wants her story to be an example to others that “getting this test done is worth your life.”

One year after the launch of low-dose CT (LDCT) scanning at Vidant Health hospitals, a procedure designed to detect lung cancer at earlier stages when it’s easiest to cure, providers have performed more than 200 scans. Lung cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in both men and women, and it’s also the leading cause of cancer death in the country. 

“More than 80 percent of patients who go untreated for stage one and two lung cancer will be dead in five years; this is why screening saves lives,” said Dr. Mark Bowling, director of interventional pulmonology, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “If surgery is performed within eight weeks on stage one cancer, there is a 92 percent chance that person will be alive in 10 years.”

“It could have been just a matter of time before this one small spot spread and became much worse,” Hinish said. “Without this procedure, I wouldn’t have known that I had cancer.” Hinish also said she is grateful to the team of doctors who put her at ease throughout the process and ultimately saved her life. 

So far, 23 percent of the conducted scans have produced findings. “These findings can be a variety of abnormalities that require follow up, nodules that could develop into cancer,” Bowling explained. 

Out of the more than 200 scans, eight have detected cancer. According to a national lung cancer screening trial, to save one person from cancer, 320 people need to be screened. 

Early diagnosis and treatment is critical due to the poor prognosis at advanced stages of the disease. The use of LDCT scanning to screen high risk patients for lung cancer has resulted in a number of patients being diagnosed with pulmonary nodules. Although most of these nodules are benign, some can be cancerous. 

Also available at VMC is the Electronic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB), a cutting-edge technology that can lead to early diagnosis and benefit these patients.

The ENB is similar to a car’s GPS. It provides the physician with a three-dimensional roadmap of the lungs and facilitates access to hard to reach regions of the lungs so suspicious nodules can be evaluated. Vidant Medical Center is one of only two hospitals in eastern North Carolina with ENB, and one of a few hospitals in the nation that utilize the new V-7 software in their navigation systems. It is one of only two sites in the world running two ENB systems equipped with this advanced software.

Another tool Vidant Health uses to diagnose and treat lung cancer is the FDA approved CrossCountry™ device. In August 2015, Vidant Medical Center was chosen by Medtronic, an internationally known medical technology and services company, to be the first hospital to use the technology, which creates easier access to tumors outside of the airway by allowing the physician to navigate a small pathway from the airway to the tumor. 

The fee for a low-dose CT scan is $250 at any Vidant Health hospital. To make an appointment for the procedure, call toll free 800-472-8500.
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