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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

St. Elizabeth Healthcare Reaches Notable Lung Cancer Screening Milestone

Healthcare System Located at the Epicenter of Lung Cancer Saves Lives 

St. Elizabeth Healthcare has just performed its 10,000th lung screening, a significant and rare milestone only held by a handful of other systems in the country. The system’s estimated rolling 12-month completion rate for eligible patients is over 25%, exceeding the national average of less than 5%, based on 2016 data presented at the 2018 American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

Kentucky ranks worst in the country for lung cancer diagnosis and death rates, according to 2018 data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries reported by the American Cancer Society. Based on the most recent rates published for the current American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system, when lung cancer is diagnosed and treated early (Stage I), the five-year survival rate can exceed 90%. This is all the more important since Kentucky is consistently one of the top two states in smoking rates, according to 2018 CDC data.

“That’s why we have stepped up to solve a problem that’s right here,” shared Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of oncology services at St. Elizabeth. “We want our patients, their families and the community to do more than recognize Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November—let’s get more area residents screened and save lives.”

The lung screening is a low-dose CT scan that has now identified about 100 lung cancers under Stage III. Early detection offers more options, namely allowing St. Elizabeth surgeons and their teams to remove the tumors and often spare lung cancer patients the need for chemotherapy. For patients who are not surgical candidates, the St. Elizabeth radiation oncology team also has excellent means to eradicate the cancer.

“By finding these tumors at an earlier Stage I or II, we are seeing a ‘stage migration’ shift. Pinpointing tumors at lower stages significantly increases chances of survival,” said Dr. Michael Gieske, medical director of lung cancer screening at St. Elizabeth. “The screenings are already extending and saving lives.”

St. Elizabeth has recruited and developed a large multidisciplinary team to combat lung cancer, led by highly qualified lung cancer surgeons, radiologists, pulmonologists, primary care physicians, nurse navigators and medical and radiation oncologists. Under their direction, a comprehensive lung cancer screening program was built that is among the country’s most robust and successful. Early on St. Elizabeth obtained and continues to maintain certifications as a Screening Center of Excellence and a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence.

Approximately 350 at-risk patients are screened per month at St. Elizabeth, detecting a new lung cancer in about one in every 62 scans. When Dr. Gary Schmitt, radiologist with Radiology Associates of NKY, and Dr. Glen Turner, now retired St. Elizabeth pulmonologist, began the program in late 2013, staff completed seven lung cancer screens total for the year.

“Since the program’s inception, progress and impact are both significant,” said Dr. Royce Calhoun, medical director of thoracic surgery at St. Elizabeth. “These screenings give patients and their physicians important information, creating opportunity for early tumor removal when time is of the essence.”

St. Elizabeth is investing heavily in building programs and focusing resources on aggressive lung cancer screening and early detection. The St. Elizabeth lung screening program is just one example of being “right here” for the Northern Kentucky community. To learn is you are a candidate for a screening, visit

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