Dartmouth and UVM launch public education program promoting early detection of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in Vermont and the United States
Vermont Business Magazine Unlike screenings for breast, prostate and other cancers, which have a long history and are routine procedures, examining non-symptomatic patients for signs of lung cancer is relatively new. Lung cancer screening for at-risk patients only became a standard insurance-covered recommendation in 2013, after research showed it saves lives, and is still much less used. than screening for other cancers.
The gap has a high price. Without a regular screening protocol, lung cancer is often detected late, after it has spread, and is the leading cause of cancer death in Vermont and the nation. Lung cancer kills more Vermonters and more Americans than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined.
“The goal of this program is to dramatically expand awareness among eligible Vermonters of the proven life-saving benefits of lung cancer screening,” said Dr. Rian M. Hasson, assistant professor of surgery at Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth. and co-lead. lung cancer screening project.
“We are also working closely with healthcare teams to ensure that conversations about these screenings are an integral part of healthcare in Vermont, and that patients can get them in a timely manner,” added Dr. John. King, professor of family medicine at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine, also co-lead of the lung cancer screening project.
More than 50% of eligible Vermont residents are missing
“Vermont is above the national average of 5%,” said Dr. Beth Zigmund, director of lung cancer screening at UVM Medical Center and associate professor of radiology at Larner College Medicine. “But that number is still low; we are missing well over half of Vermont’s eligible population.
The impact on mortality is significant.
- Vermonters with lung cancer currently have, on average, a five-year survival rate of 26%, close to the national average of 24%, according to the American Lung Association.
- However, for those whose cancer has extensively metastasized — a group that includes nearly half of all those screened in Vermont — five-year survival is only 6 percent. The number jumps to 60% for Vermonters whose cancer is detected when it is localized to the site of origin, only about a quarter of those screened, according to the ALA.
“If detected early, local tumors can be surgically removed, which may be curative for many lung cancer patients,” said Dr. Randall Holcombe, director of the UVM Cancer Center. “By the time you have symptoms, like pain or coughing up blood, the cancer may have spread and the outlook is much less positive.”
Campaign launched in July; Virtual community meetings on July 11
Community education campaign launched in July.
Consisting of educational materials, social media posts, web advertisements, opinion pieces and media outreach, the campaign focuses on:
- the life-extending benefits of early detection of lung cancer;
- that it’s safe, fast, and covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance;
- that the procedure only takes a few minutes in a CT machine, not in a claustrophobia-inducing MRI scanner, and that it uses a low radiation dose technique;
- that patients should meet with their primary care providers to initiate a joint discussion about screening, a process called shared decision-making. The provider will then refer the patient to the nearest lung cancer screening facility. There are seven American College of Radiology-accredited lung cancer screening facilities in the state.
- that gas cards are available to eligible Vermonters to cover the cost of driving to a lung cancer screening center.
Statewide, with a particular focus on Rutland, Milton areas, North East Kingdom
To ensure its statewide impact, the program hosted two continuing education sessions for Vermont physicians, emphasizing the importance of lung cancer screening, highlighting recent changes in patient eligibility and suggesting that doctors and other healthcare providers add lung cancer screening prompts to their patient. checklists, including in their electronic medical records.
The program will also focus some communications on three target communities: the Rutland area and Northeast Kingdom, which have some of the highest smoking rates in Vermont, and the Milton area which, due to the larger population of the region, has a high number of people eligible for lung cancer. screening. Eight thousand posters promoting lung cancer screening will be distributed to major employers, doctors’ offices and health centers in these regions. Social media posts will also be posted locally in communities.
The seven lung cancer screening sites accredited by the American College of Radiology in Vermont are located at:
- UVM Medical Center in Burlington
- Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor
- North Country Hospital in Newport
- Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury
- Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans
- Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland
- UVM Medical Center, Fanny Allen Campus
The effectiveness of lung cancer screening in prolonging life is based on two large clinical trials. The National Lung Cancer Screening Trials found that patients who were screened for lung cancer saw a 20% reduction in the death rate. A Dutch/Belgian screening trial with the acronym NELSON found a benefit of 24% on mortality in men and 33% on mortality in women.