For six years, Saint Agnes participated in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP) study, which involved 70,000 participants worldwide and researched the benefits associated with early detection of lung cancer by CT screening and the best practices for using it.
A recent study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) represents a ground-breaking advance in cancer detection that could potentially save thousands of lives and uniquely positions Saint Agnes Hospital as a leader in early lung cancer screenings. Saint Agnes held a vigil in recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November.
The I-ELCAP study paved the way for the new National Cancer Institute trial. The $250 million NCI study shows current and former heavy smokers can reduce the risk they will die from lung cancer by 20 percent with annual CT scans.
Due to the training given at Saint Agnes with the auspices of I-ELCAP, Saint Agnes is one of the few hospitals in the United States that have had years of lung cancer early detection screening experience.
“Lung cancer has been the 800 lb. gorilla among all cancers because until now as we have been treating lung cancer at the very last stages of the disease,” said Dr. Enser W. Cole III, Chief of Medical Oncology at Saint Agnes. “Our staff has been trained for years with the instruments, tests and the analysis involved with early lung cancer detection, which is not an area that is generally taught.”
Lung cancer kills approximately 160,000 people in the United States each year—more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. It is responsible for over a quarter of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S. each year. About 85% of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within five years of their initial diagnosis. In mid-November, three major lung cancer organizations sent a letter urging the federal government to expedite an immediate review of its recommendations on CT screening for lung cancer. Currently, there is no recommendation for or against lung cancer screening.
“My dream has always been to have a future in cancer care where we spot a lung tumor and cure it with radiation before we ever have to operate. This is a wonderful day for lung cancer caregivers and patients,” said Dr. Cole.