Premier Health Launches Lung Nodule Evaluation Program

Premier Pulse     May 2022

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently expanded its lung cancer screening guidelines to broaden eligibility criteria for lung cancer screening with a low dose CT scan. The minimum age for eligibility is now 50 years old instead of 55, and eligible smoking history has been reduced from 30 pack years to 20 (one pack year is defined as smoking one 20-cigarette pack per day for one year).

The use of low dose CT scans increases the likelihood of detecting spots of cancer or other abnormalities. Most lung nodules, or abnormal spots on the lung, are harmless; however, a small number of cases (less than 5 percent) can be lung cancer. While these abnormalities might not be cancer, their size and shape could merit continued monitoring.

In response to a growing community need for lung cancer detection and prevention, Premier Health has created a Lung Nodule Evaluation Program to efficiently identify patients with lung nodules and determine whether they need follow-up treatment. The program has been designed to track patients who are at risk of developing lung cancer through coordinated evaluation, risk stratification, monitoring, and comprehensive follow-up care.

Premier Health’s new Lung Nodule Evaluation Program features an advanced practice nurse (APRN) whose role is to help streamline the referral process, as well as coordinate a highly collaborative approach to patient care and monitoring among the pulmonology, medical oncology, and diagnostic imaging teams to improve the time between lung cancer diagnosis and treatment. Identifying lung nodules can enhance early detection of lung cancer or pre-cancerous tissue, which can lead to better treatment results.

With this program, Premier Health is taking an extra step to have our imaging experts check for lung nodules in imaging studies performed anywhere in our health system. If our physicians find a nodule, our Lung Nodule Evaluation Program will follow up with recommendations. When our physicians find a lung nodule, patients will most likely follow one of three paths:

  • If the lung nodule is small and thought to be harmless: A follow-up CT scan might be scheduled to make sure the nodule doesn’t grow, or the patient and their primary care physician (PCP) might be sent a letter suggesting no further action is needed. If an infection or inflammation is causing the nodule, a doctor might prescribe medicine to treat it.
  • If it is believed the nodule has a small risk of developing cancer: The patient and their PCP could be sent a letter with follow-up recommendations, which can include regular follow-up appointments for CT scans in three, six, 12, and 18 months to monitor whether the nodule is growing. The Lung Nodule Evaluation Program’s coordinator will contact the patient when it’s time to make an appointment.
  • If the nodule is thought to likely be cancerous: The patient will be assisted with scheduling a visit to see a pulmonologist, who might recommend additional imaging, such as a PET scan; having a bronchoscopy study; or taking a tissue sample (biopsy). In the event of a cancer diagnosis, the APRN with the Lung Nodule Evaluation Program will connect the patient with a lung cancer nurse navigator as well as Premier Health lung cancer specialists.

For more information on our Lung Nodule Evaluation Program, please call (937) 208-9050(937) 208-9050.

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