4th Annual State of Lung Cancer report shows need for early detection, Trident Medical Center to debut new tool

Charleston County News

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On Tuesday, the 4th annual “State of Lung Cancer” report for the American Lung Association was released. The report detailed that South Carolina has one of the lowest survival rates of lung cancer in the country.

The lung cancer five-year survival rate, while low in comparison to other states has increased from years past yet remains lower among communities of color.  

The report found in South Carolina, people of color are also least likely to receive surgical treatment for lung cancer as often many do not have early detection of nodules. The American Lung Association said the disparities come from a lack of expanded Medicaid, accessibility to healthcare, awareness, and a need for new technology. 

While the American Lung Association’s report shows significant work is needed to be done, representatives noted that there is hope. In March of 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force expanded its recommendation for screening to include a larger age range of more current or former smokers. The effort dramatically increased the number of women and Black Americans who are eligible for lung cancer screening.

Even more, on Thursday, Trident Medical Center will unbox and demonstrate the Monarch, a Robotic Bronchoscopy tool that will assist in further early detection. The minimally invasive tool will be able to access deep inside the lungs to obtain a tissue sample for biopsy as opposed to going in through the lung which could lead to a collapse of the organ.

Dr. Karen Gersch, a Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Trident Medical Center said, “it’s one thing to be able to detect a nodule with CAT Scan technology because it is really quite fantastic, but it is another thing to be able to prove what you think it is.”

Dr. Gersch said the new technology will also allow more of a chance at both surgery and survival. Previously older age groups were discouraged from surgery as nodule biopsies were invasive difficult to recover from.

She went on to add, “We don’t want to take out a huge segment of your lung if it’s not cancer. So this technology, minimally invasive technology, artificially intelligent technology, allows us the ability to find, localize where these pulmonary nodules are, biopsy them, and prove this is lung cancer.”

According to Dr. Gersch, she said they hope to have it up and running for patients by December after much practice and training. 

Highlights from the report:

  • 34th in the nation for lung cancer incidence at 63.2 per 100,000. Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. The national lung cancer incidence is 57.7 per 100,000.
  • 34th out of 45 (state for which data is available) in the nation for survival at 21.3%. The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%. This is well below the national average.
  • 28th out of 49 in the nation for early diagnosis at 24.1% (average). Nationally, only 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.
  • 29th out of 50 in the nation for lung cancer screening at 6.2% (average). Lung cancer screening with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 5.7% of those at high risk were screened.
  • 32nd out of 49 in the nation for surgery at 18.6% (below average). Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Nationally, 20.7% of cases underwent surgery.
  • 26th out of 49 in the nation for lack of treatment at 20.1% (average). Nationally, 21.1% of cases receive no treatment.
  • In South Carolina, Black Americans are least likely to receive surgical treatment.

For more on the “State of the Lung Cancer” Report, click here.

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