Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian have launched their first comprehensive lung cancer screening program, located in Upper Manhattan. The program brings together physicians and nurses from multiple disciplines to provide care for patients who are at high risk for lung cancer and other complications from smoking.
The core of this comprehensive program is a 10-minute imaging exam with low-dose computed tomography (CT), which detects lung cancer using a very small amount of radiation. The screening tool is very effective at finding lung cancer before it causes symptoms, when it is still treatable. Studies have shown that when used annually by smokers and former smokers, low-dose CT significantly reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer-by more than 20%.
Low-dose CT exams are currently offered at multiple ColumbiaDoctors and NewYork-Presbyterian locations, but the new lung cancer screening program provides patients with a much broader range of services, including coordination of care, smoking cessation counseling, and, if cancer is found, a team of physicians with extensive expertise in lung cancer care.
“The whole continuum of lung health in smokers is covered with this program,” says Maura Abbott, PhD, associate professor of nursing and assistant dean of clinical affairs at Columbia’s School of Nursing, who is one of the program organizers. “We have all the necessary resources to care for patients with lung nodules that need to be followed, patients who need further testing, or patients who have cancer.”
“It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of lung cancer screening. This is the single most effective treatment we have for lung cancer right now.”
When found at an early stage through screening, lung cancer can be treated effectively with surgery, radiation, or both.
“It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of lung cancer screening,” says Bryan Stanifer, MD, MPH, professor of surgery who runs the Women’s Lung and Health Center at Columbia. Stanifer, also a thoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, will be the surgeon associated with the program. “This is the single most effective treatment we have for lung cancer right now.”
Patients who make an appointment for lung cancer screening will be scheduled for a video visit with Abbott, who will explain the benefits and risks of the exam, provide resources for smoking cessation if needed, and schedule the exam.
Immediately after their CT scan, patients will meet with Mary Salvatore, MD, associate professor of radiology, to review their results and discuss next steps.
“Meeting with a radiologist is one of the things that sets the program apart from a standard CT scan and is a critical step in the process,” says Salvatore, a radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia who worked closely with Abbott to organize the screening program. “It’s not easy to have a test for lung cancer,” she says. “I help them understand what I’m seeing on the scan. I can show them what it looks like and go over next steps. That’s day and night different from getting a letter in the mail with the results, and it keeps patients coming back each year.”
Salvatore, a former smoker, also will provide smoking cessation counseling and resources during her meetings with patients.
Patients who need further testing or treatment for cancer will be scheduled with appropriate providers within two weeks of their exam, with all necessary appointments taking place on the same day.
The lung cancer screening program at Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian grew out of a shared passion among the team members for helping patients with lung cancer. “We are the champions of preventative medicine,” says Abbott. “If we have an opportunity to prevent people from dying of cancer, that’s the work we want to do.”
During the initial phase of the program, CT scans will be offered once a week at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Upper Manhattan. Expansion of the program to other ColumbiaDoctors and NewYork-Presbyterian locations throughout New York City and Westchester is planned for the future.
Other Lung Cancer Screening Program members:
Keith Brenner, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and pulmonologist at NYP/CUIMC
Simon Cheng, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and radiation oncologist at NYP/CUIMC
Angela DiMango, MD, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and pulmonologist at NYP/CUIMC
Joshua Weintraub, MD, professor of radiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and radiologist at NYP/CUIMC