Technology improves treatment of lung cancer

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Methodist Hospitals continues to lead the way in Northwest Indiana with the addition of the area’s only Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB) and the area’s most advanced Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS).

These two cutting edge technologies represent the biggest step forward in lung treatments since the bronchoscope was introduced in the 1960s.

A breakthrough in diagnosis and treatment, the ENB enables the physician to navigate through areas that were unreachable with traditional bronchoscopy. It relies on a technology similar to GPS to guide a scope through a patient’s small airway passages to reach lung nodules. During this minimally invasive procedure, the physician can evaluate the lungs and take tissue samples.

“Small nodules in the distal areas of the bronchi may not be reachable with a regular bronchoscope. In the past, we sent patients to a thoracic surgeon for surgical removal. Now we can use the GPS system and go after them,” said Olusegun Apata, MD, pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine specialist.

“The procedure ensures more accurate sampling of the nodules and reduces the risk of puncturing the lung and other complications.”

Hakam Safadi, director of respiratory and critical care, said “Once we locate the lesion, we can perform a biopsy. If the lesion will need to be surgically removed, we can tattoo it with ink during this procedure, making it much faster and easier for the surgeon to identify.

“There is a high incidence of lung cancer in this area, which is the No. 1 killer among all cancers,” Dr. Safadi added. “The earlier you detect it, the better the survival rate and the better it is for the patient.”

Minimal radiation effects

ENB may also be used to place a marker for radiation therapy.

According to pulmonologist Sharon Harig, MD, the ENB is ideal for those cases in which just a small area needs radiation.

“Now the radiation oncologist can more easily confine treatment without affecting the lung tissue outside of that specific area,” Dr. Harig said.

Lung cancer is typically diagnosed after it has spread, but surgeons at Methodist are now able to assess lymph nodes earlier using the Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS).

“The EBUS allows us to make more rapid diagnosis, less invasively. The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. A lot of other conditions can affect the lymph nodes, and in the Midwest there is a lot of exposure to fungus. If we can prove it’s a fungus and not cancer, that certainly brings a large measure of relief to the patient and obviously shifts our treatment focus,” explained pulmonologist Charles Rebesco, MD.

Dr. Rebesco added, “ENB and EBUS technologies represent a meaningful advance for patients in this area.”

Provided by Methodist Hospitals