JUL 14, 2020 8:57 AM PDT

The bus that's bringing lung cancer screening to your doorstep

Scientists say that there is potential for a mobile platform for lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT). Such a platform would allow for patients in rural areas - where rates of new lung cancer cases are elevated - to receive testing without having to travel far distances. 

"This study shows that if you bring it, they will come," said Rob Headrick, MD, MBA, from CHI Memorial Chest and Lung Cancer Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "People across the country have not been traveling to medical centers to get scans that they don't know they need. Every 3 minutes, someone in the US dies of lung cancer. We believed that if we took the technology to the people, especially those most at risk, it would be an important educational experience and lives would be saved."

The results from this study are published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. They detail the mobile platform, nicknamed “Breathe Easy,” that Dr. Headrick and his team built: a bus featuring independent power, climate control, patient comfort, a portable CT scanner, and drivability. In operation since 2018, Breathe Easy visited 104 sites and screened 584 patients during a 10 month period. 

As Eureka Alert reports, “Significant pulmonary findings were seen in 51 patients (9%). Five lung cancers were identified; four of them (80%) were early stage. In addition, non-pulmonary results also were found in 152 (28%) of the individuals screened, with the most common being moderate to severe coronary artery disease in 101 (66%) patients.”

The team says the ease of screenings is one of the most significant factors for patients. "The mobile program brings the imaging center to the patient. This can be at a place of employment, a church, or a restaurant parking lot," said Dr. Headrick. "It also makes the process quick, simple, and safe. There is no waiting room filled with people nor is a lot of time required. Screening exams have to be made simple or people will not get them done."

Photo: Pixabay

The Breathe Easy bus currently serves counties in east Tennessee and north Georgia within 90 miles or so from CHI Memorial. It has continued screening services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the shutdown of many other lung cancer screening facilities.

"This bus has provided us with the opportunity to help advance lung cancer screening," said Dr. Headrick. "It's only through conversations and efforts such as the Breathe Easy program that we are going to erase the stigma surrounding lung cancer and change the survival rates."

Sources: The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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