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Community Health: A Conversation About Lung Cancer Awareness

Lung Cancer awareness

On The Valley Today this afternoon, host Janet Michael had a conversation with Dr. Shalini Reddy, Thoracic Surgeon and Medical Director of Thoracic Surgery at Valley Health’s Winchester Medical Center. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. As part of a community health partnership with Valley Health, the conversation this month focused on lung cancer screenings, the importance of having them BEFORE symptoms appear and the changes to who “qualifies.” Click here to listen to the conversation.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 236,740 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2022. Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer, accounting for more cancer deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. The ACS estimates that more than 4,600 people in Virginia and West Virginia combined will die of lung cancer in 2022.

Dr. Reddy explained that in February 2022, Medicare expanded coverage for lung cancer screening for qualifying beneficiaries. Plus the screening criteria was expanded. Screening is recommended for adults without symptoms who are at high risk for developing lung cancer. Screening eligibility criteria include:

  • Adult smokers and ex-smokers age 50 and older (previously, eligibility began at age 55)
  • Current smokers with a 20-pack year history (previously 30 pack years) of tobacco smoking
  • Former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years

Low dose CT screenings are available at all six Valley Health hospitals. It is one of the easiest screening exams to have, and it takes less than 10 minutes to perform. If criteria for a low dose lung CT screening are met, Medicare and most insurance plans will pay for yearly screenings. Financial assistance may be available for individuals who meet screening criteria but do not have insurance to cover this screening. For more information about lung cancer awareness screenings: valleyhealthlink.com/our-services/imaging/low-dose-lung-ct/

The discussion included information about Valley Health’s Lung Cancer Program. In 2019, Winchester Medical Center was the first hospital in VA to be designated a Care Continuum Center of Excellence for lung cancer care by the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer. Valley Health has one of the most comprehensive pulmonary/thoracic programs in the region for the diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment of lung cancer. The program’s multidisciplinary team includes specialists in thoracic surgery, radiology, interventional radiology, pathology, pulmonology, interventional pulmonology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and thoracic patient navigation.

Lung Cancer Screening – Valley Health hopes to find lung cancer at its earliest, more treatable stage and work towards eliminating late-stage lung cancer. Low dose CT lung screening is available at all Valley Health hospitals for adults with a history of smoking who are at high risk of lung cancer. The screening program also includes patients who have an incidental lung nodule found during routine or emergency imaging.

Valley Health’s multidisciplinary Lung Nodule Clinic specializes in expediting care for patients with lung nodules or lesions and provides assessment and options for further testing and follow-up. The clinic’s team of pulmonary and thoracic specialists also includes specialists in diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

Advanced Diagnosis – WMC interventional pulmonary specialists use robot-assisted technology combined with endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) for diagnosis and staging in one procedure. This technology is also used to accurately mark lung lesions for more targeted radiation therapy as well as surgery. In 2019, WMC was the first facility in the broader region to acquire Intuitive Surgical’s ION™ Endoluminal System to perform robotic-assisted bronchoscopy. The ION system enables minimally invasive biopsy in difficult-to-reach peripheral areas of the lung. The Valley Health team has completed more than 250 ION cases.

Minimally Invasive Surgery – The hospital’s thoracic surgeons are experienced in minimally invasive video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and robot-assisted techniques using the da Vinci® XI™ Surgical System. Coupled with remarkable improvements in post-operative pain management and enhanced recovery protocols, these techniques help patients feel better and return home sooner. Dr. Reddy and the Valley Health team have completed 685 robot-assisted thoracic procedures since the surgical robotics program started at WMC six years ago.

Cancer Treatment and Support – Patients who receive treatment for lung cancer at the Valley Health Cancer Center at WMC will have the personal support of a thoracic patient navigator and access to treatment options such as advanced chemotherapy, radiation therapy and interventional radiology if indicated.

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking, and Valley Health provides resources to help. For information: www.valleyhealthlink.com/quitsmoking

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