Fighting lung cancer with technology

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Patients waiting to hear whether or not they have lung cancer will have answers sooner thanks to a combination of minimally invasive technologies being used at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System.

Lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer for both men and women, but has an 88 percent survival rate at 10 years when diagnosed at Stage 1. St. Mary Medical Center, Community Hospital and St. Catherine Hospital are using advanced technologies to screen for lung cancer. Once diagnosed, minimally invasive technology also is being used to reach and biopsy previously unattainable lesions deep in the lungs.

“The hospitals of Community Healthcare System are consistently on the leading edge of offering new technologies and approaches in treatment that positively affect quality and outcomes for our patients,” said Janice Ryba, CEO of St. Mary Medical Center. “Offering effective, low-cost screening options for individuals who are at high-risk for lung cancer is the first step toward fighting this deadly disease.”

Community Healthcare System hospitals are among the first hospitals in Northern Indiana to provide lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans a method that has recently been supported by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. Reports show that the use of low-dose CT scans as a quick, non-invasive method for early detection of suspicious nodules in the lungs can potentially save lives.

“Our patients, many of whom are smokers or former smokers, worry about their risk of getting lung cancer or dying from it,” St. Catherine Hospital CEO Jo Ann Birdzell said. “A recent National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), compared lung CT scans to chest X-rays and found that getting a lung CT scan lowered the risk of dying of lung cancer. We owe it to our community to offer this latest method of screening,” she explained.

Less invasive, more efficient biopsies

Once detected, a nodule or lesion needs to be biopsied to determine if it is cancerous. Until now, surgeons only had a few options for obtaining a biopsy: bronchoscopy, needle biopsy through the chest or surgery.

Of those options, bronchoscopy provides the lowest risk for complications such as bleeding or punctured lung, and allows for reduced radiation exposure. Bronchoscopy is performed by using a scope with a camera that allows the pulmonologist to directly see into the airways and conduct biopsies. However, small lesions deeper in the lung tissue are difficult to biopsy by bronchoscopy and the test can be inconclusive — produce a diagnosis for only about 14 percent of those lesions (within the outer two-thirds of the chest) that are smaller than 2 centimeters in diameter.

St. Mary Medical Center and Community Hospital offer new minimally invasive technology that provides more efficient access to biopsy suspicious lesions deep in the lungs than before.

Electromagnetic navigation technology, called SPiN Drive®, safely guides surgeons and pulmonologists through the airways to reach and examine lesions that are deep in the lungs.

“Performing these procedures at our hospitals is a milestone in the detection and treatment of lung cancer,” said Donald P. Fesko, CEO, Community Hospital. “SPiNDrive technology provides the needed accuracy and efficient workflow that enables our physicians to diagnose and treat lung cancer in a way that makes a significant impact to our patients.”

SPiNDrive technology is a state-of-the-art system that uses electromagnetic navigation, similar to a vehicle’s onboard GPS system. The SPiNDrive works with a CT image of the patient’s lung to automatically create a route or road map for the pulmonologist through the lung’s natural airways that lead to the lesion. With special instrumentation that shows the lungs in real-time (and automatically compensates for breathing), the surgeon is better able to biopsy hard-to-reach lesions and place markers for planned treatment, if necessary, at the same time.

For more information about the advanced technologies being used at Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, visit

Provided by Community Healthcare System