New 'revolutionary' robotic technology helps both treat and prevent lung cancer in one shot

The patients wake up from anaesthesia with the cancer treated.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Early detection of lung cancer is key.jpg
Early detection of lung cancer is key

da-kuk/iStock 

There’s a new robotic technology that finds lung cancer early and also has the ability to treat it at the same time, according to a report by CBS Philadelphia published on Tuesday.

The American Lung Association's annual report revealed that lung cancer survival rates are on the rise thanks partially to this new technology. The five-year survival rate is now estimated at 25%. 

One example of this success is Kathleen McGinn, who found her cancer early and treated it with the new robotic procedure. "I'm very optimistic for my future," McGinn told CBS

The new technology is called robotic bronchoscopy, and it allows doctors to reach the small, remote parts of the lung they can’t get to with regular tools. 

Dr. Partrick Ross with Main Line Health calls it "revolutionary” because, in addition to spotting early-stage cancer, it also allows doctors to treat it at the same time. All this is achieved while the patient remains under anesthesia.

"When they wake up, we say you have lung cancer, and it's treated. And that is all the difference," Ross said. 

High-risk patients need to get screened

Currently, the new technology is mainly used on those who need a biopsy for a lung mass but doctors say anyone at high-risk needs to get screened.

Worryingly, the American Lung Association has found that former smokers who have access to the treatment are not getting the recommended screenings. In addition, a growing number of young women and nonsmokers have increasingly been getting diagnosed with lung cancer.

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Both these groups need to practice more diligence in being examined.

CBS reported on Leah Phillip, a mom of three and a runner who never smoked, who was surprisingly diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at age 43. 

New 'revolutionary' robotic technology helps both treat and prevent lung cancer in one shot
A growing number of women are being diagnosed with lung cancer.

"When they came back after the bone biopsy and said you have lung cancer, you could have knocked us over with a feather. My mom and my husband and I were all in the room," Phillip said. 

This is not surprising as the new State of Lung Cancer report confirms that nearly 237,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed this year. This does not mean there is no hope for those suffering from the disease.

"We're up to 25% survival at five years, which is significantly up from the 17% survival in 2015. We attribute most of this to early detection, better treatments and systemic therapies for patients who have lung cancer that spread to other parts of the body," said Dr. Bobby Mahajan with the American Lung Association said. 

Patients who never smoked

It is currently estimated that up to 20% of people with lung cancer have never smoked and have contracted the disease from other risk factors including second-hand smoke, air pollution and radon gas (the second leading cause of cancer). 

"Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer," Phillips said, adding that her type of lung cancer has been linked to radon exposure which can happen anywhere including homes’ basements. "It has taught us a lesson that we live every day to the fullest. We make it a priority to spend time together as a family," she said. 

Doctors have yet to determine the reasons why a growing number of young women are being exposed to lung cancer. 

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