I grew up just outside of Philadelphia and spent a lot of time playing outdoors with my older brother and friends. At that time, video games were just coming on the scene—but my friends and I were soon hooked. I had no idea all the time I was putting into racing and adventure games would one day set me up for success with the robotic system I use today at AtlantiCare. I use this system to find and diagnose lung cancer at the earliest stage possible.
My colleagues and I started using the Optellum Virtual Lung Nodule Clinic in October. We are proud to be the first health care system in the Northeastern U.S. using this technology that enables our providers to identify and treat lung cancer at its earliest stage. By integrating the innovative AI technology into our daily care here at the Heart & Lung Institute at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center we’ve significantly elevated how we diagnose and treat lung cancer.
Using this technology has improved how quickly we find and diagnose early stage lung cancers. First, it identifies incidental nodules that are often missed or lost in follow up. Any CT or PET scan we perform that captures all or a portion of the lung is run through the AI system. The system will then notify our team of incidental nodules. Patients that require close follow-up are notified of the abnormal finding and recommended to follow up with their primary care, a pulmonologist or our team at the lung nodule clinic.
Secondly, the technology provides a malignancy risk prediction score that enhances our decision making. If a nodule is found and scored as concerning for an early-stage lung cancer, we then use Ethicon’s MONARCH™ robotic bronchoscopy technology to reach and biopsy these small, hard-to-reach nodules in the least invasive way.
Why is this technology so important? Low-risk individuals do not typically undergo imaging of their chest, so when a nodule is found incidentally it is important that the individual has appropriate follow-up. Individuals that are high risk—having with a family history of cancer or significant smoking history—may not be aware of the recommendation for annual lung cancer screening CT, so when they have a lung nodule found incidentally, we risk stratify the nodule found but also enroll them in annual lung cancer screening.
Using innovative AI technology like the Optellum Virtual Lung Nodule Clinic and robotic bronchoscopy has improved the way we screen for lung cancer and how quickly we can pursue diagnosis and treatment. Detection of suspicious nodules at such an early stage is critical to saving lives. In fact, 47 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed at a late stage when disease has already metastasized and has a poorer outcome. However, early-stage diagnosis in lung cancer patients has a survival rate of more than 90 percent.
Since we implemented the AI technology, we’ve reviewed more than 900 scans and notified over 100 patients of lung nodules that are greater than 8 millimeters. We have identified lung cancer and suspicious nodules in individuals who have no known risk of lung cancer through this technology and seen firsthand how it will enhance the life-saving progress we’ve already experienced since we began offering robotic bronchoscopy to our patients.
We hope by utilizing this technology we will continue to identify and treat lung cancer at its earliest stage when it is possible to cure. I also want to encourage individuals who are at high risk for lung cancer—those with a smoking history of a pack per day for 20 years or are aged 50-80 who have quit less than 15 years ago—to undergo annual lung cancer screening.
Lung cancer symptoms often don’t occur until disease has progressed, and they can often mimic other illness. If you or a loved one experiences lung cancer symptoms—such as weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue or weakness or coughing up blood—it is very important to be evaluated.
We are committed to providing extraordinary care and better outcomes for patients as we lead the race against cancer.
Amit Borah, M.D. is an interventional pulmonologist and leader of the Interventional Pulmonology team at AtlantiCare’s Lung Nodule Clinic. For more information or to find a healthcare provider, visit AtlantiCare.org or call 1-888-569-1000.