Alabama ranks deadliest state for lung cancer, new detection technology coming to Mitchell Cancer Institute

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — November is lung cancer awareness month. Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

The American Lung Association released a report this week that ranks Alabama as the deadliest state for people with lung cancer. The five-year survival rate is the lowest in the country at 16.8%. Doctors at the Mitchell Cancer Institute say that’s in part because people are not getting screened. Lung cancer screening is recommended for those with a history of heavy smoking who are over the age of 55.

“We have people who are waiting longer because they think that they’re not going to be covered when they come in and that’s a problem we need to solve on a state level, ” said Dr. Robert Gilbert, a Radiation Oncologist at the Mitchell Cancer Institute.

The later lung cancer is detected, the higher the risk of death. “When you have a cancer at an advanced stage, we usually have pretty low cure rates,” said Dr. Gilbert.

New technology coming to USA Health’s Mitchell Cancer Institute will help detect lung cancer sooner. It’s called the Monarch. It’s a robot bronchoscopy system that will be able to detect tumors where biopsies can’t. When combined with Rapid On-Site Evaluation, physicians can provide an immediate diagnosis for patients.

“We used to spend hours upon hours waiting for these samples and now it’s probably going to be cut in half,” said Dr. Elba Turbat Herrera, a Pathologist with USA Health.

Local doctors believe by catching lung cancer at an earlier stage, we’ll see fewer deaths from the disease. “Using these kinds of technologies that allow us to get at tumors at a much earlier stage will, in the end, create more survival for patients,” said Dr. Peter Lutz, a Pulmonologist at Pulmonary Associates of Mobile.

USA Health’s Mitchell Cancer Institute will be one of just 32 institutions in the country with the Monarch detection robot and the only in South Alabama. It should be ready for use in January.

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