Lung Nodule Clinic

Diagnosing Lung Cancer Before It Spreads

Ali Musani, MD, in the Lung Nodule Clinic

Ali Musani, MD, threads tiny instruments through the airways of patients to find, diagnose and treat potentially cancerous lung nodules.

More than 150,000 people each year learn they have potentially cancerous lung nodules after a routine X ray or CT scan. These nodules present an excruciating dilemma for patients and their doctors: they have to choose between invasive chest surgery or watchful waiting to see if the nodule grows.

In 2009, National Jewish Health pioneered a better choice. The National Jewish Health Lung Nodule Clinic, which draws on the combined technology and expertise of the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging® and the Minimally Invasive Diagnostic Center, can make a definitive diagnosis right away without invasive surgery.

Early diagnosis is the key in lung cancer, the most common and deadly cancer in America. Lung-cancer survival is depressingly low in America, with just 15 percent of people surviving five years after diagnosis. That is because most cancers are diagnosed late, after they have spread. In contrast, 88 percent of patients diagnosed early, with Stage I lung cancer, survive for 10 years.

High-resolution PET scanners in the National Jewish Health imaging center provide good clues about the cancerous nature of a lung nodule. PET scanners detect glucose metabolism, a measure of metabolic activity, which is high in rapidly dividing cancer cells. When a PET scan of a nodule indicates it is metabolically active, patients are referred to Ali Musani, MD within the Minimally Invasive Diagnostic Center.

Thanks to rapidly advancing technology and miniaturization, Dr. Musani can biopsy these nodules using an advanced bronchoscope inserted through a patient's airway in an outpatient procedure. Patients avoid invasive and potentially dangerous surgery but don't have to wait anxiously for months or even years to get a definitive answer about the nodule in their lungs.

"Early diagnosis of lung cancer saves lives," said Dr. Musani. "The lung nodule clinic is providing patients with early diagnosis of nodules in their lungs without invasive surgery or months of anxious waiting."

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