The low-dose CT lung cancer screening program at Larchmont Medical Imaging and its early successes for current and former smokers in the area were featured in an article by Burlington County Times reporter Kristen Coppock on April 21.
The full text of the article, used by permission of the Burlington County Times, appears below. Subscribers to the Burlington County Times can read the full article, "A New Test Proves Success in Detecting Lung Cancer in its Early Stages." The article includes expert commentary by Larchmont radiologist Michael Brodsky, M.D., D.A.B.R.
A new test proves success in detecting lung cancer in its early stages
By Kristen Coppock, Staff Writer, Burlington County Times
It's a simple test that takes less than 8 seconds.
And it may save your life.
Lung cancer screenings aren't as widely known as tests for detecting other types of cancers, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, but health professionals are hoping that will soon change. Relying on ultra-low-dose CT technology, the test is proving successful in finding lung cancer at earlier stages than other screening methods have allowed.
Dr. Michael Brodsky, a radiologist and body imaging specialist with Larchmont Medical Imaging, said the Hainesport-based service provider has screened about 180 asymptomatic patients since it began using the process 18 months ago at its patient care sites in Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel and Willingboro.
Of those tests, four found incidences of lung cancer, including two early-stage cases. An additional two patients are undergoing follow-up testing to determine whether their initial screenings showed cancer.
Lung cancer occurs mainly in older people and two-thirds of those diagnosed are over age 65, according to the American Cancer Society.
The risk of developing the disease is much higher for smokers than those who do not smoke.
"Lung cancer remains a challenging disease, compounded by how difficult it is to break a cigarette habit," said Brodsky. "But the research, not to mention the successes we've had with some of our earliest screening patients, points to the potential to make a significant difference and save more lives now and in the future."
The ACS estimates there will be about 221,200 new cases of lung cancer this year with about 158,040 deaths resulting from the disease.
It is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women. More people die from lung cancer each year than from a combination of colon, breast and prostate cancers.
Survival statistics for people with lung cancer vary by the stage it has reached by the time it is diagnosed. Brodsky said the data shows five-year survival rates for people with lung cancer has increased from 12 to 18 percent in recent years with early diagnosis a key factor.
The low survival rate can be attributed to the disease usually not being found until it has reached an advanced stage.
"Overwhelmingly, cases are diagnosed when patients are symptomatic and at an advanced stage," said Brodsky. "We don't do enough for lung cancer."
By comparison, the mortality and morbidity rates for other types of cancer are much higher. Breast cancer, for example, has reached a 90 percent five-year survival rate, said Brodsky.
The lung cancer screening was established four years ago, following the completion of a national trial. Since it is still new, statistics are not yet available for how five-year survival rates may have been impacted by screenings. However, Brodsky said screening lowers a patient's risk of dying of lung cancer by at least 20 percent.
"Our program is new, but it's already making a positive difference for patients in our area," he said.
The screenings have enabled medical professionals to find very small lung cancers in patients who are asymptomatic. At that point, Brodsky said, patients are much more treatable, even curable.
Guidelines for the screening were established by the American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society, according to Brodsky.
Larchmont Medical Imaging is certified by the college as a designated Lung Cancer Screening Center.
On a recent afternoon at the Larchmont Medical Imaging offices at the Virtua Health and Wellness Center in Moorestown, CT technologist Patti Whartenby and general manager Ray Glazer demonstrated how the screening works.
Patients lie on a cushioned table that moves back and forth through the center of a circular scanner. An open machine, the scanner quickly rotates around the table to gather images in seconds. Radiation used for the test is considered "ultra-low-dose," which is less than traditional "low-dose" scans.
"It gives you more information than a regular X-ray," said Whartenby. "The benefits far outweigh the risks."
Medicare now covers the cost of the screening in patients up to age 77, if they meet the criteria.
Candidates for the CT lung cancer screening at Larchmont Medical Imaging must be healthy enough to undergo treatment if they are diagnosed with the disease. Patients must also meet criteria endorsed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which includes requiring candidates to be current smokers or former smokers who quit in the last 15 years, smoking or having smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or more, and be between the ages of 55 and 74.
Patients also qualify if they are age 50 or older; smoke, or have smoked, a pack a day for 20 years or more; and who have an additional risk factor, such as a family history or lung cancer, another lung condition or exposure to asbestos or other toxins.
"Granted, the best way to reduce lung cancer risk is to never start smoking in the first place, or to quit now if you currently smoke. But we urge patients who meet the criteria to talk to their physicians as soon as possible about the benefits of a screening, because the prognosis is so much better with early detection," said Brodsky.