Did you know that people often do not learn they have lung cancer until it has spread? Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in our country.
It is also one of the most common cancers we treat among patients of AtlantiCare’s Cancer Care Institute, a Fox Chase Cancer Center Partner. We see patients at our Cape May Court House and Egg Harbor Township locations, as well as in our hospital campuses.
Nearly two years ago, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC) became the first hospital in New Jersey to offer robotic bronchoscopy to diagnose lung cancer. And this past, August we marked the milestone of performing our 100th robotic bronchoscopy at ARMC Mainland Campus in Pomona.
Robotic bronchoscopy is a minimally invasive technology that allows our Cancer Care Institute team to perform procedures to diagnose lung cancer and other lung issues with greater control and precision than ever. With it we are able to find and remove tiny lung nodules that in the past would have been too small to detect and/or too difficult to remove. Using this technology, we detect lung cancer sooner and treat it in its earliest stages—when treatment is most effective.
This innovative way to diagnose lung cancer is so valuable, in part, because lung cancer usually has no symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do appear, they can include chest discomfort or pain, a cough that does not go away or gets worse, hoarseness, tiredness, and trouble swallowing. Because these symptoms can be subtle or mimic other illnesses, people often dismiss them.
While this is “robotic” technology, we are always at the helm. We guide the robot using a controller-like interface, aided by 3D models of the patient’s lung. This allows for more precision and control as we reach the external boundaries of the lung. Because the procedure is minimally invasive, patients can usually return home the same day. Moreover, we typically can share results with patients within a few days.
Being able to use robotic bronchoscopy to detect and remove hard-to-find cancerous masses at early stages offers a tremendous advantage to enhance survivorship. Additionally, radiation therapies AtlantiCare uses to target lung tumors with extreme precision include intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). Through high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, we treat lung cancer by delivering radiation therapy from small implants that we place close to the tumor. We also use CyberKnife® stereotactic radiosurgery, which is a painless, nonsurgical option for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors.
To ensure early detection, it is also important to be aware of your risk of lung cancer and work with your primary care provider to have timely, appropriate screenings. Risk factors for lung cancer include:
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- Being exposed to second-hand smoke
- Having had previous lung illness
- Family history of lung cancer
- Exposure to environmental or occupational pollutants
Be aware that lung cancer can even affect individuals with no known risk factors. Steps you can take to minimize your risk for lung cancer and/or catch it early include:
- Do not use tobacco—this includes smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
- Avoid second-hand smoke.
- Avoid exposure to radon, asbestos and other cancer-causing agents that could be in workplaces.
If you have a family history of lung cancer, talk with your healthcare provider about what screenings you need and when you should have them. Follow the schedule.
If you have any of the symptoms above or other health issues, make an appointment with your primary care provider or specialist. If you’re provider isn’t available the day you’re not feeling well, you can schedule a same-day AtlantiCare Primary Care Virtualist appointment by calling 1-833-692-7436 or book the appointment online.
Learn more about robotic bronchoscopy and other innovative ways AtlantiCare’s Cancer Care Institute and Lung Nodule Clinic teams diagnose and treat lung cancer and other lung illnesses. Visit robotic bronchoscopy screening at AtlantiCare or call 1-888-569-1000.