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Area hospitals to offer lung-cancer screenings

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http://www.bendbulletin.com/news/story. ... y_no=16356

Area hospitals to offer lung-cancer screenings

Published: May 20, 2005

By Kayley Mendenhall

The Bulletin

Of all the types of cancers, lung cancer kills the most people in the United States every year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Yet, unlike breast and colon cancer, there is no protocol in place to screen patients at risk of developing lung cancer before symptoms occur, said Dr. Ed Boyle, director of thoracic surgery at Bend Memorial


"The biggest part of my practice is lung cancer," Boyle said. "It's a travesty to say, but most of the patients we see present with an advanced case of the disease. We know if we find a cancer early, we have more of a likelihood of treating it successfully."

So, physicians at Bend Memorial Clinic and St. Charles Medical Centers in Bend and Redmond have teamed up with Central Oregon Radiology Associates to launch a research program in Central Oregon dedicated to the early detection of lung cancer. The Central Oregon Early Lung Cancer Screening program has been in the works for about a year, Boyle said, and is now ready to begin screening patients.

People over age 50 who are current or former smokers with a history of at least 10 "pack years" may be interested in a screening for early signs of lung cancer, Boyle said. Someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years would qualify as having 10 pack years.

The screenings are voluntary and are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance companies, Boyle said. He explained that the idea of screening for lung cancer is still fairly new, although it is gaining national and international support.

Using research data collected from sites around the country, Boyle said, the goal is to determine if screening at-risk patients can result in the early detection of lung cancer and, ultimately, a decreased death rate from the disease.

"We've tried for 25 to 40 years to reduce the mortality of lung cancer. But, it's still going up," said Dr. Archie Bleyer, medical advisor for the St. Charles Medical Center-Bend Cancer Treatment Center. "It is one of the very few cancers where catching it early makes all the difference. Instead of a 15 percent chance of surviving, you have a 15 percent chance of dying."

Peggy Carey, St. Charles cancer program manager, said lung-cancer rates are increasing in Central Oregon as the population continues to rise. In 1999, she said, only 95 people were diagnosed with lung cancer here. But, in 2003, the most recent year for which data is available, that number rose to 129 cases.

"It's a really terrible disease," she said. "It's not a pretty disease to die from."

Using some relatively new technology, including spiral computerized tomography (CT) scanners and the Heart Electron Beam Tomography (EBT) scanner, Carey said, physicians can now take a clearer picture of the lungs. Those scans should be able to detect small "nodules" that may be cancerous and perform better than standard chest X-rays of the past.

"I've been very involved in early breast-cancer detection in my career," Carey said. "This is akin to where mammography was 24 years ago."

As part of the research conducted here, patients will have either a CT scan of their lungs only or an EBT scan of both their heart and lungs. St. Charles has been using the EBT scanner to look for warning signs of heart disease for several years, and the program has been successful, Boyle said. It has even detected lung cancer in a few patients and doctors believe it could do more if the scan were expanded to include more of the chest than just the heart.

"We have screened over 7,000 patients," Boyle said. "We want to piggyback off that success. We have 2,000 patients going through it a year. Many of those patients are at risk of lung disease as well as heart disease."

Patients will pay about $625 for a combined heart and lung scan, Bleyer said, or about $325 for the lung scan alone. Until research proves that scans can detect early stages of lung cancer and provide a cost savings to insurance companies, he said, patients will have to pay for the service out of pocket.

"I've been involved in several screening programs," Bleyer said. "There is always controversy in screening. It's very expensive and you have to justify it in terms of the costs."

If a scan shows a nodule that needs to be investigated, Boyle said, physicians participating in the program would then consult with patients on how to proceed. Continued testing and treatment are often covered by insurance companies.

All participants in the program, including those with clear scans, will be encouraged to have a follow-up scan a year later.

To schedule an appointment for a lung scan, call 312-8003. A referral from a primary care physician is not necessary, Boyle said, but physicians will be consulted on the outcome of the scan.

"We want to get the word out to the community," he said. "We hope that if people are interested, they will call in and do this."

Kayley Mendenhall can be reached at 541-383-0375 or at kmendenhall@bendbulletin.com.

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Hi Rich,

So glad you STABLE.. :D

I guess if you have to pay out of pocket for an early detection sceening, then $325.00 is not too expensive.

Just my thought, anyway.


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