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Montefiore in the News

October 22, 2013

Low-Dose CT Scans Can Detect Lung Cancer at Earliest, Most Treatable Stage

NEW YORK (October 11, 2013) – Montefiore Medical Center has introduced a high-risk lung cancer screening program that uses low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to help detect the disease at its earliest, most treatable stage. The use of low-dose CT scans for early detection of lung cancer is the first screening method validated to reduce mortality due to lung cancer compared to the current standard chest X-ray. Montefiore’s program is the first of its kind in the Bronx, where the smoking rate is the second highest among New York City’s five boroughs at 16.2 percent, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It occurs most often in older adults with a long history of smoking, with the average age of diagnosis at 70. Lung cancer is difficult to cure; one reason is that it can be hard to detect in its early stages. By the time an individual starts to notice symptoms, the cancer is often advanced.

The high-risk lung cancer screening program at Montefiore is offered to individuals who meet the criteria established in the landmark National Lung Screening Trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Eligible patients must be between ages 55-74, cannot have had a chest CT scan in the previous year, must be current or former smokers who quit within the last 15 years and must have smoked a minimum of 30 “pack years” – either one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. Patients are excluded if they had a prior cancer or a lung nodule that was previously identified by symptoms or X-ray.

“High-risk lung cancer screening is for current or former smokers who are otherwise healthy, as they will benefit most from early detection and treatment,” explained Linda Haramati, M.D., M.S., director of cardiothoracic imaging at Montefiore Medical Center, professor of clinical radiology and of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. “Given the high rates of smoking in the Bronx, it is crucial that we have a broad range of capabilities to fight lung cancer. Montefiore’s new program offers a safe and effective screening tool that can provide significant health benefits for our community by detecting lung cancer when a cure is still possible.”

“The opportunity to capture lung cancer at an early stage could have a significant impact on lung cancer-related mortality in the years to come. Too often we see patients at advanced stages of lung cancer, when treatment options have limited impact on survival,” said Bilal Piperdi, M.D., director of thoracic medical oncology, Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, and associate professor of clinical medicine at Einstein.  “When screening reveals this disease early, timely follow up at a multidisciplinary cancer center is essential to see the benefits observed in the National Lung Screening Trial. We now have the capability to offer this full spectrum of care to people in the Bronx.”

Montefiore’s screening program is coordinated  by a team of experts from its Department of Radiology, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care. Individuals must be referred to the program by their physicians and are then interviewed to ensure eligibility. Patients with positive findings have the option of being referred to thoracic surgeons at Montefiore for biopsy, and if cancer is discovered to the Lung Cancer Program at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care.  

“High-risk lung cancer screening is an innovative approach to help people maintain their health, despite a history of smoking,” said Dr. Haramati. “At Montefiore, we are pleased to offer this level of care and proven technology to advance the good health of our community.”