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New Procedure Nabs Lung Cancer Early

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New Procedure Nabs Lung Cancer Early

POSTED: 3:51 pm EST January 30, 2007

UPDATED: 4:02 pm EST January 30, 2007

The following is a transcript of a report by medical editor Marilyn Brooks that first aired Jan. 30, 2007, on WTAE Channel 4 Action News at 5 p.m.

The same technology that powers global tracking systems in vehicles now empowers doctors in the operating room.

Believe it or not, the Cleveland Clinic is using the navigational tool to help detect lung disease.

Officials at the clinic said physicians can now "boldly go where no doctor could go before," and for some patients, they said it's a lifesaver.

Teaching the flute isn't always easy, said Kay Currier, but she said it's her passion.

"When you've been playing it all your life and taught it for so many years, you think, 'Oh, what if I can't do this again?'" said Currier.

Currier survived two battles with throat cancer, but then it was her lung that contracted the disease.

"You hear about lung cancer and people not surviving, and it's just scary," said Currier.

But new technology is making lung cancers easier to diagnose earlier.

An electromagnetic navigation diagnostic bronchoscopy, similar to the global positioning system in cars, lets doctors reach lung cancers they could not reliably reach before.

A small camera probe goes down the nose and into the lungs, giving a clear picture inside the airway. On another monitor, a virtual three-dimensional map drawn from a computer scan of the chest shows where to find the tumor, which looks like a green dot. The probe and virtual map move together to guide doctors to the site.

"This is very cool," said Dr. Thomas Gildea. "This is playing video games with computers and taking video game-type skills and taking them into the patient room and making it very useful."

Gildea's research is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

He has used the technology on 60 patients. Seventy-five percent of the time he found tumors, some the size of a pencil eraser.

Before, Gildea said, he was only able to find 14 percent of tumors that size.

For Collier, the procedure was a lifesaver. Her cancer was found early.

Doctors said the procedure is quick and virtually painless. Most patients spend a few hours in hospital and leave with just sore throat.

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