CKHS Introduces New Lung Cancer Screening Program for High-Risk Men and Women
Lung cancer is the number-one cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women, and 85 percent of these mortalities can be attributed to smoking. It’s an especially critical problem here at home — Delaware County has the third-highest lung cancer rates of any county in the state.
Addressing this important public health issue, Crozer-Keystone Health System now offers a Lung Cancer Screening Program to help catch and stop the spread of cancer at its earliest stages. The results of a recent landmark National Lung Screening Trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that screenings with a low-dose CT scan can detect lung tumors early and reduce the lung cancer mortality rate by 20 percent for smokers.
Stacey Su, M.D.
Crozer-Keystone has modeled its program on the national study, making lung screenings available to the residents of Delaware County for the first time. “This is exciting news for us—we have a chance of potentially making a huge difference for those who are high risk,” says Stacey Su, M.D., director of Thoracic Surgical Oncology at Delaware County Memorial Hospital and a Fox Chase Cancer Center thoracic surgeon. “It’s been a multidisciplinary effort, including surgeons, pulmonologists, radiologists and others across the health system to launch this program and everyone is very enthusiastic.”
Eric Rubin, M.D.
With its proactive approach to cancer care, the program puts Crozer-Keystone Health System at the forefront of a national healthcare trend. “In radiology, we commonly see lung nodules when doing studies for other health issues, but up until now there has been no motivation to perform a CT scan in order to specifically look for nodules,” says Eric Rubin, M.D., a radiologist at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “With the trial data and the evidence of significantly decreased mortality, we know we can positively impact patient health.”
To be eligible for the screening, individuals must be between the ages of 55 and 74, and current or former smokers; or have at least a 30 pack year smoking history (pack years are determined by the number of packs smoked daily multiplied by the number of years smoking). Former smokers must have quit within the last 15 years and patients should not have a history of any form of cancer within the last five years.
“We are starting with the high-risk population, and we will eventually look into expanding,” says Marie DeStefano, RN, MSN, FAAMA, administrative director of Oncology for Crozer-Keystone Health System. “We don’t have any set goal for the number of people we’d like to see this first year but we hope that everybody who is eligible will take advantage of the program.”
Participants start with an initial low-dose CT scan, which is interpreted by a board-certified radiologist. The program also includes consults with multidisciplinary specialists who are available for physicians and patients to assist in explanation or further treatment planning, a nurse navigator to assist in scheduling and guidance through all necessary steps, and smoking cessation information.
“It’s a coordinated effort, from the radiologist to the primary care physician and everyone in between to work with the patient so no one is left guessing about what to do next,” says David Lainoff, M.D., a Crozer-Keystone Health Network internal medicine physician in the Springfield Primary Care Associates practice.
The program is not covered by most health insurance plans, but in order to improve access for patients, Crozer-Keystone is keeping it at a low cost of $125. Patients need to be referred by a primary care doctor or pulmonologist.
Because lung cancer is often asymptomatic, patients often don’t know they have the disease until it’s too late, which is why it’s critical for those who are high risk to pursue the screening. “The rates for cure are much lower when the disease is advanced,” says Thomas Prestel, M.D., a pulmonologist with Pulmonary Associates of Drexel Hill, P.C. “In the past year I can’t tell you how many people I have diagnosed with lung cancer who are at the prime of their lives, productive people with a lot to live for. It’s very sad to see, especially when you know it could have been different if the diagnosis was made from an early stage.”
Of course, physicians agree that the best way to ensure prevention of lung cancer is by not smoking. In the meantime, Crozer-Keystone hopes to educate the public about this new option. “Our message is that all it takes is willingness to take part in this effort,” Su says. “You most likely already know someone who fits into this high-risk category, whether it’s a family member, a friend or yourself. This screening is our best shot right now to prevent death.”
Rubin agrees. “This program is important for our doctors to potentially pick up lung cancer at an earlier stage, for patients to have this economical option to stay on top of their health, and for our community in general, because we have the potential to save.”
Crozer-Keystone Health System offers CT screenings at six locations throughout Delaware County. A physician’s order is needed to be scheduled for the screening. Contact your physician to discuss whether you are appropriate for screening. If you need a referral to a physician who’s right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258). Or visit the Lung Screening Program website for additional information, including answers to frequently asked questions.