Chief CT technician Merrie Gilson stands near the CT scanner at ProMedica Flower Hospital.
ProMedica Flower Hospital is launching a lung-screening program to catch lung cancer in the early stages.
Beginning Tuesday, Flower, along with ProMedica Toledo Hospital, will start its lung cancer screening program at the Hickman Cancer Center. While it has always provided lung cancer screenings, this program differs in that it encourages patients who may be at risk for lung cancer to start screening early, before the disease progresses.
The program is providing screenings for $99 because “most private insurers are only now beginning to cover them,” Ann Kujawa, executive director of ProMedica Cancer Institute, said.
She also said that Medicare has yet to make a commitment in coverage.
Thus patients do not need insurance for the screening nor do they need a referral from a family physician. Patients are required to have a family physician to whom the results can be referred, she said, and have to meet a certain criteria.
The program was launched in hopes of decreasing lung cancer-related deaths.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and worldwide, she said.
“It is a real challenging disease to manage because very often the symptoms are confused for bronchitis or pneumonia and when the patients see the body is not responding to some other management they will seek another treatment and unfortunately by that time it is in an advanced stage,” Ms. Kujawa explained.
Ms. Kujawa said 50 to 60 percent of its cases are diagnosed at stage three or four.
“This is a huge opportunity to hopefully make a difference in survival,” she said.
She pointed to a 2012 study conducted by the National Lung Screening Trial research team that showed mortality can be reduced with lung cancer screening.
It was a hallmark study, she said, using CT scans with the intent to diagnose cancer at an earlier stage when it can be much easier managed by surgery and has a greater chance for cure.
That’s why the hospital is encouraging asymptomatic patients to screen early for the disease. For the screening, candidates must meet certain criteria or fit into one of the high-risk groups for the disease, such as those who have a history of smoking or have been exposed to lung carcinogens.
The Lung Clinic at the Hickman Cancer Center, on Flower Hospital’s campus, also provides streamlined care for those who are diagnosed or suspected of having lung cancer. Specialists are in one location so that the patient can see them in one day to determine a course of treatment in a timely manner.