A New Way To Catch Lung Cancer Early at Saint Barnabas Medical Center

Lung cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States. Catching it early dramatically improves the chances of survival and even cure.

Since 2012, Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), Livingston, NJ, has been catching lung cancer early in people who are at high risk by offering free screenings and testing. Now SBMC has introduced the Incidental Lung Nodule Program, which can catch lung cancer early even in patients who aren’t known to be at risk.

“A lung nodule—a small, abnormal lesion or spot—can be detected incidentally, during a scan ordered by a cardiologist or other specialist looking for something else,” explains pulmonary specialist Killol Patel, MD, Medical Director of the lung nodule program and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

“Any time you get a CT [computed tomography] scan at Saint Barnabas Medical Center or the Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center and a lung nodule is picked up, our software system will alert our team,” he says.

“Letters are sent to both the ordering provider and the patient, informing them of the current recommended guidelines. They are offered an opportunity to follow up with us in our lung nodule clinic,” says the program’s nurse navigator, Rebecca Cerrone, RN, BSN. “We make a follow-up call to each patient to make sure they are receiving appropriate care with regard to their incidental nodule, whether with us or with their own provider.”

“If the patient chooses to follow up with our team, we consider the patient’s medical history and whether the nodule has any characteristics of a malignancy,” says Dr. Patel. “This, in conjunction with evidence-based guidelines, will lead us to recommend either continued surveillance or more tests if required. All recommendations are reported to the patient’s primary healthcare provider and the patient.”

On further workup, if the patient is ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer, he or she may be referred to an SBMC thoracic surgeon, who may treat the patient by removing and resecting the cancer with minimally invasive robotic or video-assisted surgery.

For High-Risk Patients

The Incidental Lung Nodule Program complements SBMC’s participation in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program, which includes a low-dose CT screening for individuals who are at high risk of developing lung cancer.

Following the guidelines set in March 2021 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, to qualify for the program, a participant must:

  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Be between 50 and 80 years old.
  • Have a history of at least 20 “pack years.” (One pack year is the equivalent of smoking 20 cigarettes—one pack—per day for a year.)

When lung cancer is detected early with a low-dose CT scan, deaths drop by 20 percent compared with a chest X-ray.

“Lung cancer is usually picked up at a really late stage,” says Dr. Patel. “With early detection, we have a good shot at curing people of this disease.”

For more information on lung cancer diagnosis and treatment at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, call 973-322-6644 or visit our website.

RWJBarnabas Health and the Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, together with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey—the state’s only NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center—provide close-to-home access to the latest treatment options.

To learn more about Cancer Services at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, call 844-CANCERNJ.