Physicians at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital are using advanced technology and a collaborative treatment approach to give patients a fighting chance against lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the U.S., with approximately 150,000 deaths per year – more than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined, largely because most lung cancers are not diagnosed until they are at an advanced stage.
“Patients with lung cancer often don’t have pain or exhibit any symptoms until the cancer has spread,” says Priya Oolut, M.D., a board certified pulmonologist with Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “But if we can identify a tumor early, we have a better chance at curing that patient with today’s leading-edge technology.”
To help with early detection, physicians at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital now offer low-dose radiation computed tomography (CT) screening, which is recommended by the American Lung Association for:
• Current or former smokers 50 years of age or older
• Individuals who have smoked the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes a day for at least 20 years
• Lung cancer survivors
“The availability of low-dose radiation CT screening represents a real paradigm change,” says Oolut. “A CT scan is three times more sensitive than a chest X-ray, enabling us to see even small tumors in the periphery of the lungs. So we now have the ability to safely and accurately scan patients.”
Collaboration for a Cure
Sugar Land resident Clifford Price is a living example of how technology and collaboration are coming together to successfully diagnose and treat lung cancer at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.
Like many people in his generation, Price smoked cigarettes as a young man. But he gave up the habit 40 years ago, and the thought of lung cancer no longer crossed his mind.
Earlier this year, however, a persistent cough and unexplained weight loss led to a visit to his primary care physician, who ordered a CT scan that showed a small tumor in his lung. Price was referred to Oolut, who performed a bronchoscopy using electromagnetic navigation to obtain a biopsy of the tumor.
Under electromagnetic navigation, the original CT scan is used to guide the physician to the exact location of the tumor, even those in difficult to reach areas of the lung, eliminating the need for surgical biopsies.
The biopsy confirmed Price’s lung cancer, and within the next few days, he met with Charles Conlon, M.D., board certified in hematology and oncology, and Clive Shkedy, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology at Houston Methodist Cancer Center at Sugar Land.
That rapid response is a key component of Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s patient-centric, collaborative approach to cancer care.
“We understand how difficult it is when a patient receives a cancer diagnosis,” says Oolut. “It’s the scariest time of their life. So we collaborate closely to ensure that the patient can be seen as quickly as possible by oncology specialists.”
Technology Makes a Difference
Following his initial consultation, Shkedy began treating Price with the Cancer Center’s new radiation system, known as TrueBeam™, an image-guided technology that gives physicians unmatched control of radiation therapy.
TrueBeam uses a CT scan image superimposed on the patient’s body to ensure a precise target for radiation. Its stereotactic radiosurgery beam utilizes motion management technology to synchronize delivery with the movement of the tumor due to the patient’s breathing.
“TrueBeam is extremely accurate,” says Shkedy. “And because it is image-guided, we know we are aiming directly at the tumor, even as it moves. As a result, we are able to protect healthy tissue in and around the lungs.”
Shkedy believes TrueBeam is a real benefit for patients with lung cancer – as well as other types of cancers where sophisticated, complex radiation therapy is required. TrueBeam can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, depending on the individual patient.
“This is the most advanced technology available in Sugar Land and surrounding areas,” he says. “It is making a real difference in our ability to fight cancer and win.”
In the past, radiation treatment often took up to nine weeks. Because of TrueBeam’s power and precision, however, Price underwent just five treatment sessions, lasting a few minutes each. But what impressed him more was the personal, compassionate approach of the staff at the Cancer Center.
“I don’t know anything about the technology, but I know I received the best possible care,” he says. “No matter what your condition is, it’s impossible to leave the center without a smile on your face because everyone there is so kind and helpful.”
Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital