Since launching in November 2014, the Missouri Baptist Medical Center Computed Tomography (CT) Lung Cancer Screening program has screened 2,594 people for early-stage lung cancer. Forty-six of them had cancer.
David Patton, a retired Anheuser Busch sales representative, was one of them. He’d been a long-time smoker, had served in the Air Force in Southeast Asia, and had had two brushes with other forms of cancer, all risk factors. He had some discomfort in his chest, and his physician referred him to MoBap’s CT screening program. A first scan detected a 3-millimeter dot, too small to be operated on. In 2018 the dot increased to 9 mm wide, and a panel of doctors decided it was time for surgery.
On Tuesday, September 25, surgeon James Scharff, MD, made three small holes In Patton’s chest, one to find the node, one to remove it, and one for a drain. He went home the following Monday.
A Hands-on Guide
Guiding David through the process was Elizabeth Arenas, RN, the screening program’s Nurse Navigator. She held the pieces of the puzzle together, acting as his facilitator, advocate and direct link to MoBap. Beth makes sure that patients qualify for insurance coverage, coordinates the hospital’s procedures with physicians’ offices, and educates patients who are smokers about the importance of stopping. “And we make it easy for patients to stay in touch with people who know what’s going on,” she said.
Beth had over 30 years of experience as an oncology nurse when she came to MoBap to help start the CT screening program.
“I wanted to be in on the beginning,” she said, “because CT can detect lung cancer early enough to save lives.” She feels the most important part of her job is making the connections that help keep patients in the program, complete testing, and continue with the follow-up series of screenings.
The hardest part of that job is convincing patients how important it is to stop smoking. “I have to get through a wall smokers put up to justify continuing,” Arenas said. “I’m not here to set a goal for them, but to find how best to help them on their journey to quitting.” she continued. Her reward? “Knowing I’ve made a difference to people at such a difficult point in their lives.”
David Patton appreciates her efforts: “She did a nice job with all those forms, very professional. I’ve never had so much communication, and I can always call her for advice.” His future course includes doing breathing exercises, two years of biannual checkup scans, and three years of annual scans. He likes to make early appointments: “it’s not a bad way to start the day — you check in, and in five minutes you get your scan. His take on the program? “Everybody should be commended.”
Besides providing CT lung cancer screening at its Town and Country, Sullivan, and Sunset Hills locations in Missouri, MoBap also performs screening in Farmington and Ste. Genevieve, Missouri and Chester, Illinois. The multiple locations enable patients to schedule appointments at the location nearest to their homes.
CT scanning enables doctors to see inside a patient without cutting. Estimates are that as many as 80 million such scans occur in the US each year. They consist of a series of X-ray pictures taken from various angles. A computer program combines the pictures to so that doctors can see an object in fine detail and in three dimensions. While any form of radiation can pose an additional risk of cancer, MoBap’s Siemens helical scanning system reduces that risk by using only 30 to 68 percent of the radiation that other scanners produce.