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Health & Wellness

Roswell Park's new $1.5M spiral CT helps find lung cancer earlier, increase survival rate

A woman enters the spiral CT
A woman enters the spiral CT.
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Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Lung cancer is an especially lethal branch of cancer because it's usually caught way too late for even the increasing number of new treatments to do any good. Even with the latest care, the cure rate is 25%.

However, the congressional earmark system may change that at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The key is a technological marvel called a spiral CT scanner. A three-minute scan, the $1.5 million CT can spot cancers far earlier than the traditional chest x-ray, opening the way for treatment.

"You can affect the stage of diagnosis of lung cancer by using the low-dose CT.," said Mary Reid, a Roswell professor of oncology and chief of cancer screeening, survivorship and mentorship. "So, we picked up more cancers, but they were earlier than on the chest x-ray group. The second thing that we could say for really the first time is that, by picking up lung cancer early, you could definitely change the course of the disease and improve survival."

Eligibility guidelines for the spiral CT
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Eligibility guidelines for the spiral CT.

Reid said a patient who wants to be screened for lung cancer can be in and out of Roswell Park in 15 minutes, perhaps using the new scanner for the cancer center paid for by a congressional earmark. She is a strong advocate for screening.

"The issue with lung cancer is that we now have a great tool to pick up lung cancer early. So 70% of lung cancer is usually diagnosed without a surgical or curative option and with screening. We know that that will shift," she said.

Problem is the rate for older smokers eligible for the CT scans is only about 5%. Reid said the high rate of women coming in for mammography for breast cancer and treatment shows it can be done after turning around attitudes.

She's even an exponent of having a scanner mounted in a tractor-trailer and taken to where people are, rather than spending an hour driving to Roswell Park, which many would likely not do to get scanned.