October 20, 2022

Event set to make lung cancer screening more accessible

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is making the lung cancer screening more convenient with weekend appointments from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks

A CT scan is a painless and noninvasive imaging procedure that can be lifesaving for those with longtime tobacco exposure when lung cancer is detected, especially when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage.

To mark National Lung Cancer Screening Day, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is making the procedure more convenient with weekend appointments from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks, 719 Thompson Lane.

Any individual with recent history of significant tobacco use age 50 or older with a 20 pack-year smoking history should be screened for lung cancer, according to recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendations include those who have quit smoking within the past 15 years if they meet the pack-year requirement. One pack year is equal to smoking an average of 20 cigarettes, or one pack, every day for a year. For a person who has smoked half of a pack per day for 30 years, that measures out to 15 pack years.

The number to make an appointment through a shared-decision-making discussion for the Saturday event is 615-322-0580. The discussion can be done either by telephone or videoconferencing.

The Vanderbilt Lung Screening Program has performed more than 10,000 screening exams and is staffed by radiologists with extensive expertise evaluating suspicious lung nodules.

“What we find often with our lung scans is early-stage disease,” said Kim Sandler, MD, associate professor of Radiology. “Approximately 20% of lung cancers in Tennessee are diagnosed at early stage, but if you look at our lung screening program, approximately 70% are early stage. Not only does early detection greatly improve survival rates, but the treatments are less severe. Many of our patients have one surgical procedure and then go into surveillance,” Sandler said.

“When lung cancer is found early, we can typically remove it minimally invasively with small incisions with robotic or scope surgery and no additional treatments are needed,” said Eric Grogan, MD, MPH, associate professor of Thoracic Surgery.

“If it is not found early, then surgical removal is much more complex or cannot be performed. In addition, here at Vanderbilt, when these operations are performed, patients can also allow their blood and tumor to be stored instead of discarded so we can find blood tests and better imaging tests to improve and personalize the early diagnosis of cancer.”

Although thousands of people have undergone lung screens at VUMC, many thousand more qualify. According to the Tennessee State Cancer Plan, 22.6% of adults age 18 and older currently use tobacco, compared to the national rate of 17.1%.

One of every 11 men in the state will develop lung cancer, and one in 14 will die from it, according to “Cancer in Tennessee,” a report issued by the Tennessee Department of Health. Among women, one in 14 will develop lung cancer and one in 20 will die from it.

Light breakfast and learning materials will be offered at the event. Participants will also have the opportunity to advance lung cancer detection and care if they take part in a clinical trial that seeks to identify biomarkers for early-stage lung cancer in blood samples. Although this research is being conducted in conjunction with lung scans, participation is not required to undergo a CT scan.

“We are grateful for all the people who have trusted us by enrolling in lung screening and letting us be a part of their care,” Sandler said. “We’re happy that we’ve reached thousands of individuals, but there are so many others who are at high risk for lung cancer and can benefit from this lifesaving exam.”