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St. Luke's Introduces Advanced Technology for Minimally-Invasive Lung Cancer Screening and Staging

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UnityPoint Health® - St. Luke’s has introduced a new imaging method that allows for the non-surgical sampling of suspected lung cancers more precisely than ever before. The EBUS-TBNA (endobronchial ultrasound transbronchial needle aspiration) system from Olympus is recognized in the latest ACCP Lung Cancer Guidelines as the best first test for lung cancer staging of the chest cavity.

“With new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force calling for more proactive lung cancer screening of long-term smokers, the need for reliable methods of assessing peripheral lung nodules is forecasted to increase,” says Dr. Sandeep Gupta of UnityPoint Clinic Pulmonology and Critical Care. Dr. Gupta performed the first procedure using the new technology in June. 

“The EBUS-TBNA supports a minimally invasive method for diagnosing peripheral lung nodules,” he adds. “In addition, it produces samples that are more precise than we have been able to collect in the past.”

St. Luke’s is the only Siouxland provider to offer this advanced technology. In addition to providing earlier diagnosis of lung cancers, the technology can provide insight on infections and other diseases causing enlarged lymph nodes in the chest.

EBUS-TBNA involves inserting a small ultrasound mechanical probe down the bronchoscope. The resulting real-time ultrasonic image is displayed on a monitor. 

Once the ultrasound probe is in the correct position to confirm the location of the target area, the probe is withdrawn, and a biopsy sampling device is inserted down the scope to collect tissue samples for biopsy. The real-time visual confirmation of the target area using EBUS-TBNA is proven to increase the diagnostic yield during sampling.

The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis without requiring surgical intervention. This means no overnight stay is required, the risk of infection is virtually eliminated, and patients are back to normal activities almost immediately.

“At St. Luke’s we take pride in being able to offer our patients innovative technologies like this one,” says Jane Arnold, Senior Vice President of Operations and Ambulatory Vice President of Clinic Operations. “We are able to see the body in ways we never have before. Traditional technologies for the diagnosis of lung cancer have been invasive and not nearly as precise as the EBUS-TBNA system. Offering this technology will detect cancers of the lung sooner, improving the odds survival for those diagnosed.”

According to Lung Cancer Alliance data, lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the United States among every ethnic group, taking more lives than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. Unfortunately, only 15% of lung cancer is diagnosed at its earliest and most curable stage, and more than 55% of cases are diagnosed after the cancer has metastasized. In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial found a mortality benefit of at least 20% in long-term smokers who underwent annual low-dose CT screening. 

“EBUS-TBNA is a proven modality, either used solely or in tandem with other modalities, for helping to diagnose lung cancer and other diseases in the peripheral areas of the lung,” says Dr. Gupta, who has extensive experience using the technology. “It provides patients with a convenient, minimally invasive diagnostic procedure that produces a better sample than has ever been possible on an outpatient basis. That is a win-win.”