From an interview with
Vinod Jona, MD
McLeod Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates
Building on the success of its Lung Cancer Screening program, the McLeod Health team has been detecting lung cancer earlier and saving lives through low-dose CT scans for more than seven years. Since that time, the cancer team has expanded the program to include four dedicated nurse navigators, a lung nodule clinic, and patient conferences with multiple specialists.
Now, the addition of innovative early detection technology is enabling the team to precisely track and diagnose lung cancer in its earliest stages with electromagnetic navigation. This new technology revolutionizes the speed and accuracy with which lung cancer can be diagnosed, allowing for treatment to begin sooner.
Offered at McLeod Regional Medical Center and McLeod Health Seacoast, the SPiN Thoracic Navigation System provides electromagnetic navigation and guidance to distant regions of the lungs in a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, enabling McLeod Health pulmonologists to locate, biopsy and plan treatment for lung nodules that were previously difficult to access with traditional technology. The McLeod team is utilizing the system to act sooner and not wait for nodules to grow before they are biopsied.
Prior to the procedure, we use the data from a patient’s lung CT scans and SPiN technology to build a dynamic 3D map of the patient’s lungs and navigate the shortest, safest path to the targeted nodule. Since it is often difficult to reach a specific nodule in the lung because it is a moving target, SPiN accommodates the constant movement within the lungs created by normal breathing.
Similar to GPS in your car, electromagnetic navigation (EMN) uses the natural airways of a patient’s lung as roadways. Using sensor tip tracked instruments, we can accurately navigate through the lungs using the EMN roadmap to access smaller and harder-to-reach nodules. We can also obtain tissue samples for biopsy by seamlessly transitioning from navigational bronchoscopy to a transthoracic needle aspiration (TTNA) in the same procedure. The SPiN technology provides patients with an earlier and more precise diagnosis.
Earlier treatment for lung cancer is provided to increase survival rates to as high as 92 percent. Using this technology, we can establish the diagnosis sooner and potentially perform pre-surgical staging in a single procedure. This is beneficial to patients because it requires fewer hospital visits and leads to better patient outcomes. It also allows us to ease their concerns or fears and focus on the course of treatment they want to pursue, whether that is surgery or radiation treatment.
In 2020, our team established the McLeod Lung Nodule Clinic to evaluate and monitor those patients who have been screened for lung cancer and a pulmonary nodule was detected, or those who had a nodule found incidentally as a result of a lung CT scan after a car accident, pneumonia or injury. This clinic enables us to determine the patient’s risk of developing lung cancer and ensure they receive high quality care and follow the evidence-based guidelines.
A year later, our team began inviting lung nodule patients to participate in a conference with providers from multiple specialties before they may ever be diagnosed with lung cancer. Offering this access through a virtual platform is convenient for the patients and their families.
Each clinic patient receives complete testing and consultation with a physician to determine the best course of action for them, all in one visit. This simplifies things for the patient while maximizing early detection of disease and minimizing unnecessary medical or surgical procedures. During the conference, this team of specialists reviews the pertinent medical history, imaging scans, diagnostic studies and pathology to develop a plan appropriate for the patient. If the lung nodule is not growing in size nor showing signs of developing into cancer, the medical team follows the national evidence-based recommendations for lung nodules, which may involve scheduling follow-up imaging scans at three, six or 12 months.
When this system is a part of a low-dose lung CT screening program as it is at McLeod Health, it significantly improves the chances of detecting lung cancer in its earliest stages and assists pulmonologists in providing their patients with the best course of treatment.
For more information on the McLeod Lung Cancer Screening Program, call Amy Perugini (843-777-5953) at McLeod Regional Medical Center or Kristy Hincher (843-366-2220) at McLeod Health Seacoast.