Olympus, a global technology leader in designing and delivering innovative solutions for medical and surgical procedures, announced today its support for new lung cancer screening guidelines that could open more at-risk individuals to potentially life-saving scans.
November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and recent changes by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) means about 14 million Americans now qualify as high-risk for lung cancer and are recommended to receive annual low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans.1
Earlier this year, the USPSTF expanded its guidelines for annual lung cancer screenings and now recommends screenings for adults ages 50 to 80 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.2 A person’s pack-year is determined by the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years they smoked. For instance, 20 pack-years is equal to one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years. The recommendation had previously been 30 pack-years for ages 55 to 80.
Lung cancer symptoms usually do not appear until the disease is already at an advanced stage, and detection in its later stages makes the prognosis poor, highlighting the need for detecting the disease at an earlier stage through annual screenings, according to the American Cancer Society. The American Lung Association reports that 47% of lung cancer cases are not caught until later stages when the five-year survival rate is just 6%.3
The national screening rate for those considered at high risk currently stands at only 5.7 percent.4 A key to increasing screening rates could lie in streamlining what can be a cumbersome shared-decision process, according to Dr. Gerard Criner, chair and a professor of thoracic medicine and surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and director of the Temple Lung Center.
He advocates a simpler process that includes developing an easily understandable, scripted communication made available to patients in writing or via video to replace a face-to-face consultation.
“I’ve had a couple of colonoscopies and I’ve never had to meet a gastroenterologist to talk to me about the risk and benefits,” Criner said. “Women have a mammography and they don’t have to do that either. So, that means the patients have another kind of barrier that they have to go through before they get the test done.”
Along with low-dose CT scans that can detect potential abnormalities, Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS) Bronchoscopes, including those made by Olympus, allow for a minimally invasive diagnosis and lung cancer staging via a needle biopsy. A recent pilot study5 has shown the safety and effectiveness of certain needles in gathering tissue samples critical to determining treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
EBUS-TBNA (Endobronchial Ultrasound-guided Transbronchial Needle Aspiration) is a procedure used in the diagnosis and staging of lung cancer, allowing physicians to visualize diseased tissue, lymph nodes or lesions beyond the walls of the airways. EBUS-TBNA has proved a less invasive method to diagnose and stage lung cancer, allowing for targeted lung cancer therapies.
As more diagnostic modalities become available, more studies are emerging evaluating new lung cancer-focused procedures. Today, physicians are increasingly presenting cases6,7 in which ElectroMagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB) is discussed as another route to improve patient care. Olympus recently acquired Veran Medical Technologies® for its single-use bronchoscope offerings as well as its SPiN Thoracic Navigation System® that allows for enhanced guidance for peripheral lung nodules.8 A broad range of offerings may help providers improve the procedure flow along the patient pathway.
“Advances in minimally invasive diagnostic tools help oncologists make timely diagnoses that allow for targeted lung cancer treatments,” said Lynn Ray, Vice President and General Manager of the Global Respiratory Business Unit for Olympus Corporation. “Widening the pool of at-risk individuals eligible for low-dose CT scans is an important step to assuring people receive the treatment they need.”
Most private insurance plans and Medicare pay for annual screenings for eligible patients. The American Cancer Society recommends people check with their individual state Medicaid offices to learn about what services are provided for cancer screening tests. Those who qualify as high-risk should consult with their physician on the benefits and risks associated with lung-cancer screenings and the best individual course of action.