Lung Cancer: A Patient’s Journey

Submitted by Mudiwa Munyikwa, MD FACS; Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery and Beebe General Surgery-Cape

Talking to the Doctor and Care Team following lung surgery.Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. It is estimated there are 10 million individuals at high risk for developing lung cancer in the United States.

Beebe Healthcare has been partnering with the state of Delaware for several years in an effort to increase lung cancer screenings and diagnose lung cancer earlier.

Multiple studies have shown that lung cancer screening can save lives. Screening has been approved by Medicare and other insurance companies because it helps to detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is most treatable.

Beebe Healthcare offers low-dose CT lung cancer screenings in Georgetown, Millville, and Lewes. Patients who are 55 to 74 years old, in fairly good health, have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history, are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years, should talk to their doctor about a lung cancer screening. 

These scans are offered at a very low cost to make them affordable to as many people as possible with a nominal charge of $99, which includes the interpretation of the images. Patients who are uninsured or underinsured may also qualify for screenings through Delaware’s Screening for Life program at no charge.

Deb Campbell, MSN, RN, Beebe’s Cancer Screening Nurse Navigator can help guide you on your journey to having a lung cancer screening. Call her at (302) 645-3169 or email cancerscreeningnavigator@beebehealthcare.org.

 

Following a Lung Cancer Screening

After the lung cancer screening, Beebe now has a comprehensive system in place that allows your results to expeditiously go to your care team, which includes your primary care provider, the nurse navigator, and a multidisciplinary clinical team at Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery.

The thoracic surgery team holds weekly Pulmonary Nodule Clinics. A pulmonary nodule is generally what is identified by the radiologist following a lung cancer screening. The diagnostic imaging screening you have will show physicians if there is a high likelihood cancer may be present.

Each week, the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic team meets with patients who have had the lung cancer screening to go over your results and treatment options. This multidisciplinary team includes thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, thoracic radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, thoracic navigators, nurse navigators and other members of the patient care team. In addition, the medical team also discusses other cases detected through the screening process – even if the patient is not able to make it to the clinic in person that day. This means the entire process from diagnosis to treatment is streamlined and efficient to better serve our patients.

Thoracic Navigators Alice Isidro, PA-C, and Robin Weems, PA-C, of Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery, are available to talk to patients, and schedule follow-up visits, further testing, and surgery.

Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery.

 

Individualized Treatment Planning

Beebe Healthcare is now able to offer many treatment options for our patients. Medical care teams work directly with the patient and the patient’s care providers to determine the best treatment plan.

Surgery options include:

  • Open Surgery: Lung cancer surgery may be performed using open surgery through a long chest incision, called thoracotomy. This usually involves spreading the ribs to access the lung. Open surgery allows doctors to touch and feel organs while operating, but the long incisions have traditionally meant longer hospital stay and recovery time.
  • Thoracoscopy/VATS: Thoracoscopy is also called video-assisted thoracic surgery or VATS. Doctors insert a tiny camera (thoracoscope) and surgical instruments into the chest through small incisions. The camera takes images inside the patient’s body and sends them to a video monitor in the operating room to guide surgeons as they operate.
  • Robotically Assisted Surgery: When using robotically assisted surgery, doctors make a few small incisions - similar to thoracoscopy procedures. During robotic-assisted surgery, the surgeon sits at a console near the patient and controls the instruments, which bend and rotate in intricate ways. The surgeon uses a 3D HD vision system which provides an optimally magnified view inside the patient’s body. The system translates all hand movements into smaller, exquisitely precise movements of tiny instruments in the patient’s body. The small incisions lead to much quicker recovery time when compared to open surgery, including shorter hospital stay.

At Beebe Healthcare, new investments in technology and training have allowed us to offer management meeting the best evidence-based clinical practice guidelines regarding who should be tested for lung cancer and how they should be treated.

Meet the Team.

This includes our use of 3D imaging to navigate the lung’s narrow passages where most tumors reside and test growths for the presence of cancer, a technique called navigational bronchoscopy. This enables us to catch lung cancer early, and we use a team approach to remove tumors before they have a chance to spread.

Advanced technology is helping us find more early-stage lung cancers. Each cancer found early is potentially a life saved. The program has expanded exponentially, helping many people in Delaware.

There are different types of lung cancer procedures and depending on your type of cancer and recommendations from your doctor, you might be able to have minimally invasive robotic surgery procedures including:

  • Segmentectomy: surgical removal of a small lung segment with tumor
  • Wedge resection: surgical removal of a triangular slice of lung tissue including the tumor
  • Lobectomy: surgical removal of a section of lung (lobe)
  • Pneumonectomy: surgical removal of entire lung.

All surgery carries with it some amount of risk. With robotically assisted surgery, patients can expect less scarring, quicker recovery time, and more precise removal of tumors.

Studies have shown:

  • Patients experience less blood loss
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Patients in 86% of cases are released from the hospital sooner.

Talk to your doctor about your diagnosis and which type of treatment is right for you. If you would like to speak to someone at the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic or Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery, call (302) 644-4282.

Mudiwa Munyikwa, MD

Mudiwa Munyikwa, MD FACS, is board certified in thoracic surgery. He sees lung patients at Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery. Contact Dr. Munyikwa at (302) 644-4282. 

 

 

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