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Lung cancer clinic, navigator provide personalized care

April 12, 2018

Kim Jensen, NCH Social Worker, and Juli Aistars, Lung Cancer Patient Navigator, discuss appointments and treatment with a lung cancer patient and his sister.

Our new Lung Cancer Clinic has opened, providing patients with comprehensive care through a team approach that takes patients from diagnosis and treatment to follow-up visits. Close to 150 lung cancer patients were treated at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH) in 2016 and 490 lung cancer screenings were performed here in 2017.

Following a review, a newly diagnosed lung cancer patient and his/her family is invited to the clinic where they meet with each member of the multidisciplinary lung cancer care team one-on-one in a single visit. The goal of the clinic is to help patients see all of the doctors at once to get a treatment plan or next steps, according to Lung Cancer Patient Navigator Juli Aistars.

“We’re saving them time, and saving them from having to make all of these different appointments,” Aistars says. “It’s for the benefit of the patient.”

Aistars helps patients with coordination of care, providing education and support. Patients meet with a medical oncologist, thoracic surgeon and radiation oncologist as needed at the clinic, and a social worker provides counseling, community resources and financial assistance. The team evaluates each patient case, discussing care and treatment options. The team also addresses barriers to care, such as insurance, or traveling to the hospital for treatment.

Patients are saved emotional stress because they’re moved into a treatment plan as fast as possible, which helps their outcome and peace of mind. Oncology physicians at NCH participate in various clinical trials involving chemotherapy, radiation and/or immunotherapy, and medical oncologists take part in many trials offering access to newer drugs. NCH is a member of NRG Oncology, a group under the National Cancer Institute. 

Lung cancer diagnosis and treatment at NCH includes video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS); robotic surgery using the daVinci Surgical System; pneumonectomy, lobectomy, segmentectomy; Cyberknife, and other leading-edge radiation therapies like IMRT and IGRT using image guidance, as well as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Diagnostic tests include low-dose CT scan, MRIs, positron emission tomography (PET) and CT-guided needle biopsies to help stage lung cancer. Interventional pulmonologists use electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy and endobronchial ultrasound to biopsy lymph nodes and masses, often in hard-to-reach areas of the lungs.

A monthly support group for people directly affected by lung cancer is held at the hospital, and a smoking cessation program helps anyone who wants to quit, has already quit or is thinking about quitting. 

NCH also follows patients through an Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program which helps patients lower their complications through exercise, endurance training, lifestyle modifications and group and individual counseling.

“We really do have a fantastic program and we’re getting better and better,” Alistars says.

Note: There are 9 million people in the U.S. who are eligible for lung screening, but only about 2.5 percent are getting screened.

“It’s covered by insurance, but there are still barriers to lung screening,” Aistars says.

Find out if you are eligible for a lung cancer screening by taking our assessment.