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May 21, 2015
Dignity Health is offering its life saving lung cancer screening program at both of Dignity Health’s East Valley hospitals, Chandler Regional Medical Center and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center. Now covered by most major insurers including Medicare, a low-dose CT scan of the chest for patients at high risk is most effective for catching lung cancer early enough to cure it.
“Every eight minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with lung cancer, which kills more Americans than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined,” explains Elbert Kuo, MD, thoracic surgeon at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in downtown Phoenix, home to the Norton Thoracic Institute.
Recently joining most insurers, Medicare now covers preventative lung cancer screenings. The Medicare population, approximately five million American seniors, represents close to half of the entire at-risk public who could qualify for screening—being between age 55 and 77, with a heavy smoking history and having not quit within the last 15 years.
“Right now, diagnosis is often made once symptoms are already present—a chronic cough, chest pain or coughing up blood. By that time, the cancer has often spread and is very hard to treat,” says Dr. Kuo, who is also director of the Norton Institute’s lung cancer screening program which originally launched at St. Joseph’s nearly four years ago and expanded into the West Valley last year.
Dr. Kuo says the Norton Institute has been looking forward to offering this program, which first expanded into the West Valley last year, in the East Valley. “By making this a Valley-wide program and with the tests now being covered by insurance, we can really start to change the statistics. We know the disease is deadly, but we also know it can be cured if it’s caught early enough. Studies have shown these scans can reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent and can save up to 70,000 lives per year.”
Committed to providing individuals with high quality screening and follow up care, Norton Thoracic Institute has screened more than 500 patients to date. In addition to diagnosing lung cancer, the scans have also effectively detected a few cases of advanced lung disease, breast cancer, lymphoma and cardiac disease. All results are reviewed by a multidisciplinary team which develops an individual and comprehensive care plan for each patient—putting them on track to a healthier lifestyle.
“Up to 86 percent of our patients cut back or quit smoking after their initial screening. Approximately 35 percent have begun following a healthier diet, and 44 percent started exercising more,” said Dr. Kuo. The program includes a one-on-one consultation with a physician to review results, which are communicated to patients and their primary care doctors.
For more information about Dignity Health’s lung cancer screening program, members of the public can call 855.586.4727.
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