Since launching in November 2014, the Missouri Baptist Lung Cancer Screening Program has screened 2,886 people for early-stage lung cancer. The results showed 105 of them had cancer. Low-dose CT (LDCT) screening for lung cancer, performed on patients meeting the criteria, can save thousands of lives each year. LDCT screening, which is only a five-minute exam, is the only proven method to detect lung cancer at an early and treatable stage.
David Patton, a retired Anheuser Busch sales representative, was one of those patients. 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. David had some discomfort in his chest, and his physician referred him to the Missouri Baptist Lung Cancer Screening Program. A first scan detected a 3-millimeter node, too small to be operated on. In 2018 the node increased to 9-millimeters wide, and a panel of doctors decided it was time for surgery.
In late 2018, Missouri Baptist surgeon James Scharff, MD, successfully removed the nodule from David’s lung and he was able to go home about a week later. His rehabilitation included doing breathing exercises, two years of twice-yearly checkup LDCT scans, and three years of annual scans. David is currently doing well, is very active and busy living his life.
A Hands-on Guide: Dedicated Nurse Navigator
Guiding David through the process was Beth Arenas, RN, BSN, OCN, nurse navigator for the lung cancer screening program. Beth helps patients understand the screening process, advocates for them, and makes sure that patients qualify for insurance coverage, or if assistance is needed. She also coordinates the hospital procedures with physicians offices and educates patients who are smokers about the importance of stopping. “We also 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 Missouri Baptist to help start the Lung Cancer Screening Program. “I wanted to be here at the beginning because low-dose CT [LDCT] screening can detect lung cancer early enough to save lives.” Beth 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 that 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,” 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.” At two years post-surgery, he only has annual LDCT 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.”
The Missouri Baptist Lung Cancer Screening Program schedules screenings at five locations around the St. Louis area, giving patients more convenient access to screenings and providing care closer to home.
- Missouri Baptist Medical Center – Main Campus in Town & Country
- Missouri Baptist Outpatient Center – Sunset Hills
- Parkland Health Center – Farmington, Missouri
- Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital – Sullivan, Missouri
- Memorial Hospital Chester – Chester, Illinois
What you should know about LDCT Screening for Lung Cancer
LDCT scanning enables doctors to see inside a patient without cutting and is used to find disease at its earliest stages, when people don’t have symptoms—and early detection is key to beating any cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society:
- Research has shown that when LDCT scans were used to screen people at higher risk of lung cancer, more lives were saved when compared to chest X-rays.
- LDCT scans have a lower radiation dose than a chest X-ray and is lower than a standard CT scan.
- LDCT can help find abnormal areas in the lungs that may be cancer—before patients have symptoms.
- If lung cancer is found at an earlier stage, before symptoms, when it is small and before it has spread, it is more likely to be successfully treated.
- Usually, symptoms of lung cancer do not appear until the disease has already advanced.
- To further delay diagnosis, many people mistake the symptoms of lung cancer for other problems, like an infection or the long-term effects of smoking.
While any form of radiation can pose an additional risk of cancer, Missouri Baptist’s LDCT scanning reduces that risk by using only 30 to 68 percent of the radiation that other scanners produce.
To Make an Appointment or Find out more about the Missouri Baptist Lung Cancer Screening Program
Missouri Baptist Lung Cancer Screening Program is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans. Medicare patients must have a shared decision-making visit with a medical provider prior to their lung cancer screening test. If you or someone you know meets the criteria for a lung cancer screening or to set up an appointment for a lung cancer screening test, please call our dedicated nurse navigator at 855-399-LUNG (5864). The navigator will guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.