BMC Named a Lung Cancer Screening Center of Excellence
Cancer screening works. Just ask the thousands of area residents who take advantage of such life-saving procedures as colonoscopies and mammograms to detect colorectal and breast cancer in their earliest stages.
But similar programs to screen for lung cancer were not as effective. For example, by the time a lung tumor was visible on an x-ray, the disease had often progressed to a critical stage.
But that all changed in 2013, when the results of a national lung cancer screening study concluded that low-dose CT scans saved 20% more lives by identifying tumors at earlier and more treatable stages. “We jumped on this new information,” said BMC Surgeon Christian Galvez-Padilla. “If we could diagnose lung cancer much earlier, we could initiate treatment and decrease deaths from this disease.”
Similarly, BMC Radiologist Eric Korenman was also energized by the results of the national study. During his training in New York City, he was impressed by a radiologist who believed in the merits of lung cancer screening, but was frustrated by the lack of an effective tool. In fact, Dr. Korenman took the results of the national study – and its potential for the local community – to the Berkshire Medical Center administration, which approved the region’s first screening program for lung cancer.
Since then, the program has grown to include surgeons, radiologists, pulmonologists, oncologists, pathologists, and staff from BMC’s quality program and the BMC Cancer Center. In addition, the team launched an awareness campaign among local primary care physicians, who are on the front lines when it comes to referring patients to the screening test. In 2017 their pioneering work in the Berkshires to identify people with lung cancer has been named a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance. In the process, these two BMC physicians – and their incredible team of caregivers – have given people in our community another opportunity to successfully fight cancer.
If the test reveals the need for more diagnostics, patients are referred to the nodule clinic at BMC and the BMC Cancer Center, if necessary. Kelli Milne, RN, MSN, manager of BMC’s vascular and thoracic programs, oversees the lung cancer screening program and stresses that excellent communication with the patient and all caregivers involved in his/her care, has eased concerns, increased compliance with each step toward treatment, and contributed to the program’s excellent outcomes. “We are with our patients every step of the way,” she said.
Dr. Galvez noted that Berkshire County – with its aging population and high rate of smoking (18%) – was in desperate need of a lung cancer screening program. And Dr. Korenman stressed that low-dose CT scanning is not a “one and done.”
“The vast majority of our patients have a successful screening, where nothing suspicious is detected,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean something won’t develop in the future. We want to repeat this test every year.”