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Tenet Health Central Coast advocates importance of screening on World Lung Cancer Day

Sierra Vista lung cancer screening
Tenet Health Central Coast physician Dr. Ross Michel shows off a robotic bronchoscopy system at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 1. 2023. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Tenet Health Central Coast is using today's recognition of World Lung Cancer Day to inform the public about the importance of screening and early detection for those who may be at high risk of the disease.

According to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America, World Lung Cancer Day was created in 2012 and has been observed every year on August 1 in order to raise awareness of lung cancer issues and to advocate the need for more lung cancer research funding.

Tenet Health Central Coast, which operates Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, is using the day as an opportunity to highlight its unique Ion robotic bronchoscopy program and the importance of screening.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States," said Dr. Ross Michel, Sierra Vista pulmonologist. "World Lung Cancer Day is a good day to bring awareness to lung cancer. Lung cancer is particularly deadly and we'd like to catch it in its early stages,

Michel is only physician in San Luis Obispo County who performs Ion Robo-bronchoscopy, which reaches the outer 1/3 of the lungs where 70% of cancer nodules are located.

"We have the Ion Robotic Bronchoscopy system, which helps us accurately diagnose lung cancer and we use it to catch lung cancer in its earliest stages," said Michel. "Once we identify a suspicious nodule on a screening CT scan of the chest, we use the robotic bronchoscopy technology to approach that nodule in a minimally invasive way, and then do a biopsy to determine if it is lung cancer."

Described as minimally invasive, the biopsy procedure has the potential to saves lives by reaching previously-unreachable tumors.

"What makes this technology so significant is it allows us to navigate through different parts of the airway that we wouldn't be able to navigate through traditional bronchoscopy," said Douglas Roewer, Tenet Health Central Coast Endoscopy and Pulmonology Services Clinical Manager.

Tenet Health added that the Ion also has the potential to be a screening tool because it can reach all 18 segments of the lung with a camera scope.

Sierra Vista has had the technology for just over a year, first using the Ion equipment in May 2022.

"Program has been going very well," said Michel. "We've had a lot of success. We've had good diagnostic yields from our bronchoscopies."

Statistics compiled by the American Lung Association show California ranks very low nationally in screenings for those who are determined to be at high risk for the disease.

In California, only 1% of individuals who are categorized at high risk were screened, which was significantly lower than the national rate of 6%.

"I think our screening numbers are so significantly low, not just in California, but also San Luis Obispo County because people are not aware that they can be screened for lung cancer," said Roewer. "It is my hope that our numbers increase in screenings so we can treat people at its earliest stages, as opposed to later."

Tenet Health Central Coast wants those who may be high risk for lung disease to schedule a screening as soon as possible.

"The more people we screen, the more incidental findings we can find, and then from there, treat them, so that we can have better outcomes on behalf of the patients that we serve here," said Roewer.

It recommend that low-dose CT screenings should be done annually for high-risk people since early detection may significantly reduce the lung cancer death rate by detecting tumors at early stages when they are more likely to be curable.

"Anybody that has a history of smoking, one pack of cigarettes per day for at least 20 years or the equivalent, should talk to their doctor about getting screened for lung cancer," said Michel. "We just want people in our community to be aware of lung cancer and how serious it is and to get a screening if they have a history of smoking."

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Article Topic Follows: San Luis Obispo County
Tenet Health Central Coast
World Lung Cancer Day

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