Your Health Today Magazine

Comprehensive Personalized Lung Cancer Care

CT scan

Casey Suhl, RTR, prepares to administer a low-dose CT scan to a patient.
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St. Anthony’s Medical Center ranks among the largest providers for the treatment of lung cancer in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

“We offer comprehensive services for the treatment of lung cancer,” said Mary Graham, M.D., Medical Director of Radiation Oncology and Chairman of the Cancer Committee at St. Anthony’s. “That includes a newly developed, low-dose, Computed Tomography (CT) screening program for lung cancer. This program has just been approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and adopted by Medicare and private insurances. We also have a lung cancer nurse navigator to guide and assist patients through lung cancer screening and appropriate follow-up.”

The low-dose, spiral CT scan is fast, painless and non-invasive; it is recommended for patients at high risk for lung cancer. It can detect cancers much smaller than those previously viewable by X-ray. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, without screening, three out of four people with lung cancer will initially be diagnosed with incurable or metastatic disease.

“Screening for lung cancer in high-risk populations will identify lung cancer at an earlier and more treatable stage, and improve survival,” Dr. Graham said.

At St. Anthony’s, expert physicians, surgeons, oncologists, nurses, techs and other staff collaborate to develop and oversee a personalized treatment plan for every patient.

“We have a coordinated, multidisciplinary group that works together to deliver quality care for patients,” Dr. Graham said. “Cancer care has become increasingly complex – there isn’t a single person who can run the show. It really requires a village approach.”

St. Anthony’s multidisciplinary Cancer Committee has met for years, to ensure the Cancer Care Center meets and exceeds best-practice standards set by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. St. Anthony’s multidisciplinary, low-dose CT screening committee was formed this year.

“Our multidisciplinary steering committee is intimately involved in the development and maintenance of the program, ensuring we are following best practices and abide by all of the most current treatment guidelines,” said Calvin Robinson, Interim Executive Director of the Cancer Care Center. “Our committee includes physicians, senior leadership, managers and frontline staff members.”

Current lung cancer treatments include immunotherapy agents (which stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer), Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT, in which high doses of radiation are targeted to small, well-defined tumors) and Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT, which uses advanced technology to manipulate radiation beams to conform to the shape of a tumor).

“We’ve made a lot of headway with lung cancer,” said R. William Morris, M.D., of St. Louis Oncology Associates, a 36-year veteran medical oncologist and a member of St. Anthony’s Cancer Care Team. “New drugs are being developed all the time, including targeted agents, or drugs that are not chemotherapy, specifically. They offer the promise of the future: significant effectiveness without the heavy side effects that chemotherapy has had in the past.”