Ascension Via Christi expands lung cancer screening, opens lung nodule clinic

Ascension Via Christi is investing in new programs and services to help find lung cancers at its earliest stages and then get treatment started within seven to 14 days.

Abed Abu-Samra, MD, pulmonologist; Lori Hurst, RN; and Brett Grizzell, MD, cardio-thoracic surgeon

Lung cancer is responsible for more cancer deaths than any other type of cancer in men and women, but when discovered while still small and localized, may be curable.

That's why Ascension Via Christi is investing in new programs and services to help find lung cancers at its earliest stages and then get treatment started within seven to 14 days.

As part of that effort, earlier this year Ascension Via Christi added a second dedicated lung cancer nurse navigator to its Cancer Outreach and Risk Assessment team, which coordinated low-dose CT lung cancer screenings for more than 1,300 patients last year.

"I'm excited to have the additional help because our screening numbers this year are up by more than 20 percent over the same period last year," says Lori Hurst, RN, of her new colleague, Susanne Goodwin, RN. "This allows us to offer personalized care coordination for the growing number of patients taking advantage of this program."

Today, it opened a lung nodule clinic in a first-floor suite in the Heritage Plaza medical office building on the St. Francis hospital campus. Patients whose screenings detect cancerous lesions will be seen there by a multidisciplinary team of lung and cancer specialists who will work together to develop and implement a treatment plan within seven to 14 days.

"Our goal is to build upon our position as a Center of Excellence for treating lung cancer," says cardio-thoracic surgeon Brett Grizzell, MD, medical director for the Ascension Via Christi’s lung screening program. "The lung nodule clinic is another step in ensuring patients’ access to prevention and treatment."

Dr. Grizzell and Ascension Medical Group Via Christi pulmonologist Abed Abu-Samra, MD, are serving as co-medical directors for the lung nodule clinic; interventional pulmonologist Thamer Sartawi, MD, is also a key member of the clinic’s multidisciplinary team.

The Surgery department at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis has acquired an ION system, a robotic-assisted platform for performing minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsies.

"It’s a precise system that will allow us to locate and reach nodules as small as 8 millimeters in size," says Dr. Abu-Samra. The new system is expected to be in place and operational in the next few weeks.

Ascension Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals also are expecting delivery by year’s end of a new EON imaging software system, which uses computational linguistics to identify incidental pulmonary nodules and other relevant findings on computed tomography, magnetic resonance and X-ray radiology reports.

"Using this software with all upper body diagnostic imaging performed at our Wichita hospitals is one more way for us to detect lung cancers at their earliest and most treatable stages," says Keisha Humphries, RN, who leads Oncology Services at Ascension Via Christi. "Ultimately, for some patients it will be a life-saver."

Patients determined to need further evaluation will be referred by their nurse navigator to the new lung nodule clinic for follow up.

"I am excited to see all our plans for identifying lung cancers earlier and quickly developing and implementing a plan of treatment that is more convenient for patients and their families come together," says Humphries.