‘Turning the Tide on Lung Cancer’ conference highlights the importance of screenings

9 months ago

CARIBOU, Maine — On Thursday, May 18 Cary Medical Center hosted the virtual conference “Turning the Tide on Lung Cancer” highlighting the importance of low dose CT lung cancer screening. Two keynote speakers, Dr. Kim-Lori Sandler and Dr. Michael Gieske, addressed their respective work and research as it relates to lung cancer screening.

Dr. Sandler is an associate professor of radiology and radiological sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as well as a co-director of the Vanderbilt Lung Cancer Screening Program. Her current research efforts are focused on identifying women and underrepresented minorities who are at high risk for lung cancer and currently engaged in breast cancer screening to promote their enrollment in the lung screening program.

Dr. Michael Gieske is currently the director of lung cancer screening and medical director at St Elizabeth Healthcare in Ft Mitchell, Kentucky. He is the lead physician and clinical director of the St Elizabeth Physicians group. He has worked with his team at St. Elizabeth Healthcare to build one of the most successful lung cancer screening programs in the country. He is a dedicated advocate for lung cancer survivors and caregivers, raising awareness and promoting policy to bring hope to patients at risk for and with lung cancer.

Registered attendees represented Cary Medical Center, Pines Health Services in Caribou, Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield, Northern Light Health, Mi’kmaq Nation Health Department and Pink Aroostook. 

Cary Medical Center was the recipient of a two year grant from Maine Cancer Foundation focused on increasing low dose CT lung cancer screening.  The May 18 conference was funded by the grant and concluded the two year project.  Nancy Holmquist, who coordinated the work on the grant, said that the opportunity to present Dr. Sandler and Dr. Gieske, two national leaders in lung cancer screening, was extraordinary.

“Both of these physicians are at the very top of their field,” said Holmquist who is a health educator at Cary. “The information they presented is ground breaking and it was wonderful for us to share their knowledge and experience with our medical professionals here in the County. The physicians were kind enough to leave the slides that were presented at the event with us to share with those who were unable to attend. We are very grateful for the support of Maine Cancer Foundation for making this event possible and to our exceptional presenters.”     

During their virtual presentations both physicians addressed the importance of lung cancer screening in identifying cancers early when they can be most successfully treated. Dr. Gieske, who has been in practice for more than 30 years, said that lung cancer screening can detect cancers in various stages and new treatments are improving survival rates. He pointed out that even patients with 4th stage lung cancers have been successfully treated. But survival rates are highest when the cancer is identified in early stages. 

The two specialists are advocating to increase the number of eligible patients who are referred by their primary care providers to be screened.  Some 14.2 million Americans are eligible but only 5.8 percent get screened. This is in contrast to 4 in 5 women receiving recommended Mammography exams and 66.8 percent of Americans receiving colorectal cancer screening.  The State of Maine ranks 5th in the nation for lung cancer screening at 12 percent while some states have screening rates of only 1 percent.

To be eligible for low dose lung cancer screening you must be 50 to 80 years old, have a 20 pack-year history, with one pack per day for 20 years or two packs per day for 10 years and currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.