Cutting-edge technology at Alaska Regional Hospital has revolutionized the early detection and prevention of lung cancer, the deadliest cancer in the U.S. The hospital’s new robotic bronchoscopy procedure allows doctors to obtain tissue samples from deep inside the lungs, making it easier to test for cancer.
“This is a game changer,” said Hope Austin, robotics program coordinator at Alaska Regional. “The number of people’s lives that could be saved with this technology is astounding.”
Lung cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages. It often develops in tiny nodules deep within the bronchial tubes and patients are often asymptomatic until later on. As a result, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, surpassing colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Screening for lung cancer is crucial for early detection and improved survival rates. The process is quick and painless, taking less than two minutes to complete. Patients lie on a table while the machine uses x-rays and computer technology to produce 3D images of the lungs. The scan uses a lower dose of radiation compared to standard chest scans.
To qualify for screenings, individuals must meet specific criteria, including being between the ages of 50-77, current or former smokers (quit within the last 15 years), and having a smoking history of at least 20 pack-years. Those who meet these guidelines are encouraged to speak with their primary care physician about scheduling a screening.
Lung cancer screening holds particular importance in Alaska, where smoking rates remain higher than the national average. While smoking rates have declined over the years, around 19% of Alaska adults still smoke, putting them at risk for poor health outcomes, including lung cancer.
At Alaska Regional Hospital, the new robotic bronchoscopy procedure is part of a comprehensive effort to detect and prevent lung cancer. The hospital has also implemented a lung nodule program to identify high-risk patients, recommend CT scans, and develop personalized care plans.
By leveraging advanced technology and screening programs, Alaska Regional Hospital is leading the way in early detection and prevention of lung cancer, ultimately saving lives and improving outcomes for patients.
1. What is robotic bronchoscopy?
Robotic bronchoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows doctors to obtain tissue samples from deep inside the lungs for cancer testing. It utilizes a robotic arm controlled by surgeons to navigate the bronchoscope through the trachea and into the lungs, providing a more precise and flexible approach compared to traditional bronchoscopes.
2. How does lung cancer screening work?
Lung cancer screening involves a quick and painless CT scan that produces 3D images of the lungs. The scan uses a lower dose of radiation and can help detect lung nodules, which may be early signs of cancer. Individuals who meet specific criteria, such as age, smoking history, and quit status, are encouraged to discuss screening with their primary care physician.
3. Why is lung cancer screening important?
Early detection of lung cancer is crucial for better treatment outcomes and improved survival rates. By identifying lung cancer in its early stages, before it spreads outside of the lungs, doctors can provide more effective and less invasive treatment options, ultimately saving lives.
4. What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
The primary risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, both current and past smoking history. Other risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, and environmental pollutants. It’s important to discuss your individual risk factors with a healthcare professional.