DuBOIS — Dr. Sandeep Bansal, medical director of The Lung Center and Intensive Care Services at Penn Highlands DuBois, said one of the ways to diagnose lung cancer early is to screen individuals for the disease which is the number one killer of both men and women in the world.

“We (Penn Highlands) actually run one of the most successful programs in the country, in terms of lung cancer screening,” said Bansal, noting they have done close to 5,000 screening scans in the last four years.

“With that, we’ve diagnosed close to about 70 lung cancers and 75 percent of those were early stage,” he said. “That’s close to about 55 lives saved, which wouldn’t have been diagnosed otherwise.”

Those who meet the following criteria should consider an annual lung cancer screening:

  • Individuals between ages 55-80 with at least a 30-pack-year smoking history and continue to smoke or quit smoking less than 15 years ago. One pack-year is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes, or one pack, every day for one year.
  • Individuals age 50 or older with at least 20 pack-years and one or more risk factors: Long-term exposure to asbestos, asbestos-related lung disease, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, family history of lung cancer, long-term exposure to silica, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, diesel fumes, nickel, coal smoke and soot.
  • If an individual has quit smoking, it has to be within the past 15 years.

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Genomics, the analyzation of certain abnormal genes in certain tissues such as lung tissue, adds another layer of accuracy in diagnosing lung cancer, said Bansal.

“By analyzing certain set of genes, you are predicting whether that patient has high probability of cancer, low probability, intermediate probability,” he said. “We’re looking at their smoking status, their age, the location of the nodules, whether they have emphysema. Those five or six factors give me a number of what their probability of cancer is. But the genomics, you can add another layer and that makes it very, very accurate in terms of calculating whether the patient has high probability or low probability of cancer.”

What’s going to happen in lung cancer diagnosis and therapeutics in the future?

“I think in my career, I will see that if a patient presents to me today with the nodule and I’ll be able to tell them, with a very high level of certainty, that this is cancer,” said Bansal. “And based on their preference, we will be able to bring them to the Bronchoscopy Suite, navigate using certain advanced platforms like robotic navigation, go to that area, make a diagnosis, and treat them on the same day. The patient will not only go home diagnosed, they will go home cured. We don’t have that today, but it’s my vision that we will be able to accomplish that in my career. That’s what makes it very satisfying.”

Those interested in scheduling a lung cancer screening can call 814-375-3770.

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