The Highlands Oncology Group partners with primary care providers to identify patients at high risk of lung cancer so the specialists can do a more in-depth screening, explained Joanna Thompson, multidisciplinary program manager, Highlands Oncology Group.
The Highlands Oncology Group’s lung cancer screening program partners with primary care providers who refer patients who are considered high risk based on their age and smoking history, and then the specialists do a more in-depth screening, explained Joanna Thompson, multidisciplinary program manager, Highlands Oncology Group.
What is the lung cancer screening program that Highlands Oncology Group has implemented?
So, we've definitely been through a lot of trial and error during our screening program. We've been in existence for about 6 years. We have found that some of the most important things when you're wanting to start a program, or maybe you already have a program that you are wanting to enhance, is one to have a lead physician who is very engaged, who's passionate and really believes in detecting lung cancer early. And the second is to then have a coordinator or navigator supervisor for that program who also can buy into the vision that the lead physician has to then carry out the plan get the program going. And that those 2 work together very well to carry out the vision of the program.
The lung cancer screening as a low-dose CAT scan of the chest. So, normally the referrals come through a primary care provider who's identified that they have a patient who is 50 and older with a long smoking history. That patient is sent us, we have schedulers to are trained to go through the risk assessment with the patient identify if they're high risk, mostly based on their smoking history, there are a few other risk factors that we take into consideration based on the patient's age.
The patients who are high risk are then scheduled for an appointment for a shared decision-making visit with our patient navigator. And then also for the low-dose CAT scan of the chest. The entire appointment usually takes less than 15 minutes. It's quick, it's painless, it could save the patient's life. We then take the abnormal scans that are identified if these are going to be patients who have a nodule that are larger than 6 millimeters. Those are discussed in our multidisciplinary lung cancer conference.
So, we have a clinic where we can see these patients who are high risk, but prior to them being seen in clinic, they're first reviewed by a team of usually 5 to 10 lung doctors who are a part of this multidisciplinary clinic that we've had for about 20 years. So, they can look at that low dose CT, view the nodule take into consideration the national guidelines and then decide does this patient need to follow up CAT scan in 3 to 6 months? Or do they need to go ahead and come in, have a PET scan and then be seen by a lung specialist to figure out is this an early-stage lung cancer?
For patients who have a normal scan, they just get a letter in the mail saying, you know, “your skin looked great. No cancer was identified, you can come back in 1 year for your next screening CT.”