St. Joseph’s Westgate expands $29 lung cancer screening program to West Valley

(September 2014) -- Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute now offers its highly successful lung cancer screening program in the West Valley at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center. A low-dose CT scan of the chest for patients at high risk for lung cancer is the most effective means for catching the disease early enough to cure it.

Lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States—more than breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic combined. Studies have shown that screenings can save up to 70,000 lives per year

“At St. Joseph’s, we’ve taken a proactive approach because we know lung cancer kills hundreds of thousands of people each year,” said Elbert Kuo, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute. “Every eight minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time you have symptoms—coughing, chest pain or coughing up blood—it’s usually too late to cure.”

A National Cancer Institute study indicated that early detection could reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.  Without early detection, “six out of 10 people diagnosed die within a year,” said Dr. Kuo. “But, studies show if we find the lung cancer early, eight of 10 patients will still be alive five years later.”

Robin Finazzo, 56, of Peoria, who’s been smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day for nearly 40 years, was persuaded by her siblings to get tested. “My older sisters have always mothered me,” she said, “because they’re worried about my health.” Her brother learned St. Joseph’s Westgate was launching a screening program this summer and convinced her to make an appointment. Finazzo was the first patient to undergo lung cancer screening at the new hospital.

The lung cancer screening program originally launched three years ago at St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute in downtown Phoenix, which has screened more than 350 patients to date. In addition to diagnosing lung cancer, the scans (which use one-fifth the radiation of regular CT scans) have also detected a few cases of advanced lung disease, breast cancer, lymphoma and cardiac disease. Scans currently cost $29. All results are reviewed by a multidisciplinary team to develop an individual comprehensive care plan for each patient—putting them on track to a healthier lifestyle.

“Up to 86 percent of our patients cut back or quit smoking after their initial screening.  Approximately 35 percent have begun following a healthier diet, and 44 percent started exercising more,” said Dr. Kuo. The program includes a one-on-one consult with a physician to review results, which are communicated to patients and their primary care doctors.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screenings for adults 50 to 80 years old who have smoked a pack a day for 30 years or more and still smoke, or have quit within 15 years. For more information about St. Joseph’s lung cancer screening, call 855.LUNG.SCREEN (586.4727).