Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Lung Cancer Screening Center Launched

January 10, 2012
Somerset Medical Center has announced the launch of a specialized Lung Cancer Screening Center that is dedicated to early diagnosis of various lung cancers by utilizing the latest technology and following protocols associated with recently released clinical findings that point to better, more effective diagnostic screenings.

“Because early detection of lung cancer has been so difficult, it has traditionally been one of the more difficult cancers to successfully treat,” commented Jean-Phillipe Bocage, MD, chair of the Lung Cancer Institute at Somerset Medical Center's Steeplechase Cancer Center. “Recent studies show that lung cancer can be detected at its very earliest stage in 85 percent of patients using annual low-radiation-dose CT screening. When followed by prompt surgical removal, the 10-year survival rate is 92 percent.” 

Because this finding is so potentially important to the people of Central New Jersey, The Lung Cancer Institute at the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center will offer low-dose CT scanning for the early evaluation of people who are at an elevated risk for lung cancer – current or former smokers between 55-74 years old with 30 or more “pack years” (number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked). These screenings will be initially offered at a specially-discounted rate of $99, subsidized by Somerset Medical Center. In addition to the CT scan, patients will undergo spirometry testing to measure the flow and volume of air entering and leaving the lungs, have a follow-up consultation at the Steeplechase Cancer Center and a consultation with a smoking cessation specialist at the center’s Tobacco Quitcenter. 

“Smoking is by far the number one vector associated with lung cancer,” said Dr. Bocage. “However, living in Central New Jersey also presents a number of environmental factors, like pollution and radon exposure, which can have a demonstrable impact on the onset of lung cancer.”

Dr. Bocage notes that the new study, recently reported in New England Journal of Medicine, could help to dramatically decrease the number of deaths annually from lung cancer – the number one cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the U.S. The study was launched by a team of researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in 1993, and was later expanded into an international collaboration of 38 institutions in 7 countries. It is the largest, long-term study ever done to determine the usefulness of annual screening by CT. 

Stage I lung cancer is the only stage at which cure by surgery is highly likely. While survival rates have been climbing for other forms of cancer, the survival rates for lung cancer have remained stubbornly static. Approximately 95 percent of the 173,000 people diagnosed each year die from the disease - more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. The high death rates are a consequence of lung cancer not being detected early enough for treatment to be curative. 

“This study provides compelling evidence that CT screening for lung cancer could dramatically reverse lung cancer death rates," said Dr. Bocage. “It is so compelling that the Steeplechase Cancer Center wants to make this potentially life-saving test available to all at-risk people in Central New Jersey.”

“Our mission is to continuously provide the highest quality of care to the people of our community,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, medical director of the Steeplechase Cancer Center. “Providing low-dose CT scans at reduced costs for those at the greatest risk of lung cancer is one way we can make a strong impact on health in our community. Over time, we believe that CT scans will do for lung cancer survival rates what mammograms have done for breast cancer survival.”

Somerset Medical Center has recently formed a multidisciplinary team focused on improving outcomes for lung cancer patients treated at its Steeplechase Cancer Center. The team brings together pulmonologists, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, nurses and staff from the medical center's Tobacco Quitcenter. The team’s unique and comprehensive approach offers lung cancer patients a wide range of services, including a lung cancer patient navigator, video-assisted thoracic surgery, radiation oncology, access to clinical trials and a smoking cessation program.

For more information about low-dose CT screening for the early detection of lung cancer, visit www.steeplechasecancercenter.com/lung or call Somerset Medical Center’s Lung Clinic at (908)-927-8778.