Advances in early detection capability for lung cancer, as well as new treatment options, have transformed this diagnosis, giving hope to many patients and families. With surveillance screening and early detection of lesions, lung cancer patients have a high rate of cure.

"By the time patients begin to have symptoms, they often have advanced disease," said thoracic surgeon Gavin Henry, MD, FACS, medical director of Tate Cancer Center at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (UM BWMC). "We have the technology to screen people at high risk of lung cancer when they are asymptomatic, and we need to get those patients in for screening in order to detect lesions when the cancer is still curable."

In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its screening recommendations. The USPSTF now recommends lung cancer screening for adults 50 to 80 years old who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and who currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.

The University of Maryland Medical System offers lung nodule screening at its UM Upper Chesapeake Health (UM UCH), UM BWMC, UM Capital Region Health, UM Shore Regional Health and University of Maryland Medical Center locations. Patients who meet the criteria can be screened effectively according to USPSTF guidelines and tracked over time to assess changes in their lungs. If a cancerous lesion develops, our team is able to intervene early with multiple therapeutic modalities.

"These community-based screening programs offer patients the convenience of having lung nodule screening available nearby. And because we are part of the University of Maryland Medical System, patients who have an abnormal finding have seamless access to a comprehensive approach to address those abnormalities," said pulmonologist and critical care physician Jason Birnbaum, MD, medical director, ICU, UM UCH.

Our programs offer referring physicians a way to handle patients' lung cancer risk without adding more to their plates. It also helps gives referring providers an effective approach to managing incidental findings reports. "Any findings of concern on a nodule can be sent here and addressed," said Dr. Birnbaum.

The program's technological capabilities are both diagnostic and therapeutic. Our advanced diagnostic capabilities enable us to perform minimally invasive, highly precise procedures. We offer endobronchial ultrasound, robotic-assisted bronchoscopy, and leading-edge navigation software. Together, these capabilities mean our bronchoscopists can access smaller lesions, potentially leading to earlier detection. We also offer stereotactic body radiation therapy, giving patients who are not good surgical candidates a viable therapeutic option.

Together with referring providers across the region, we can move the needle on lung cancer early detection. "In 2022, only about six percent of high-risk patients were screened for lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association. That translates to a lot of unnecessary deaths," Dr. Henry said. "Our screening programs, which are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and many health plans, can help."

To refer a patient to the lung nodule screening program, connect with a University of Maryland Medical System cancer center.