ALBANY — Phoebe Cancer Center has been named a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance for its ongoing commitment to responsible lung cancer screening, officials with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital have announced.
Phoebe earned the designation three months after launching the Lung Watch program, which is meant to help individuals at risk for lung cancer detect the disease early. Lung Watch starts with the primary care physician, who identifies people who are at high risk and without symptoms. A multi-specialty team is also in place, including pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and palliative care specialists.
A nurse navigator then guides patients through the process when follow-up is required.
“Until the Lung Watch Program, primary care doctors really have not had much to offer in effective lung cancer screening,” Dr. William Fricks, a physician at the Phoebe Family Care Center, said. “Lung Watch relies on a group of physicians, navigator and staff to help move people through the process based on outcomes of their screenings. The primary care physician could not do this without the multi-disciplinary model of care.”
Officials say the criteria met for the SCOE designation was providing clear information, based on current evidence, on who is a candidate for lung cancer screening and the risks and benefits of the screening process in language appropriate to the candidate; complying with comprehensive standards based on best practices for controlling screening quality, radiation dose and diagnostic procedures; working with a multi-disciplinary clinical team to carry out a coordinated continuum of care for screening, diagnosis and disease management based on best practices; including a comprehensive smoking cessation program in its screening and continuum of care program based on best practices evidence; reporting results expeditiously to those screened and the referring physician, and transmitting copies of all reports and scans in a timely manner if requested for a second opinion or transfer of care; providing those screened with information on how they can donate images and biospecimens to advance research in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of lung cancer; and participating in outcome data collection in order to further refine risk evaluation, screening and diagnostic protocols.
“We at Phoebe felt the absolute need to offer this program to our community to assist in detecting lung cancer earlier,” said Linda van der Merwe, vice president of oncology services at the hospital. “If we can find lung cancer in its earliest stage, we can possibly extend a person’s lifespan.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States, information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Until recently, there had been no generally accepted screening test for lung cancer. A national panel of medical experts now recommends that heavy smokers and ex-smokers get routinely screened with low-dose computed tomography scans, which experts say are better able to detect the tiniest lung cancers at an earlier, more curable stage.