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Submitted Providence Swedish

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Each year, it claims more lives than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. However, thanks to a dedicated multidisciplinary team at St. Peter Hospital and the state-of-the-art Ion robot-assisted bronchoscopy technology, Providence has been able to screen for early detection and support patients on their journey to recovery from lung cancer.

Earlier in March of this year, the Ion robot team performed its 500th procedure.

ion robot that detects lung cancer
Photo courtesy: Providence Swedish

“Early diagnosis combined with timely, targeted and personalized treatment is the key to improve lung cancer survival” said Pulmonologist Dr. Dominique Pepper. “With the Ion robot and our lung nodule program, we have diagnosed early-stage lung cancer, which allowed patients to receive radiation, oncology, and thoracic surgery sooner.”

The installation of the Ion robot and the program expansion was made possible through a generous donation to the Providence Southwest Washington Foundation by donors with a long history of support for St. Peter Hospital, as well as matching gifts from the pulmonologists leading the effort.

“Speed really matters in lung cancer treatment. We can now get patients who need it into surgery sooner, and we are now curing more lung cancers,” added Pepper. “This truly is a game changer.”

Early Detection is the Key for Lung Cancer Treatment

The scary thing about lung cancer is that it often does not have symptoms. Most patients find out they are victims of lung cancer when the disease is at an advanced stage.

It started out as a stomach-ache for Aberdeen’s Timothy Sorter. But when the pain worsened, he decided it was time to visit urgent care.

“They did a CT scan on my stomach, which also captured a picture of my lung,” he shares. “The doctor told me something didn’t look right and needed to be checked out.”

Timothy Sorter with sons Jace and Bryce. Photo courtesy: Providence Swedish

That’s when Timothy was referred to Providence Swedish. The Providence Lung Nodule Clinic team promptly scheduled him to see Dr. Pepper. Using ION bronchoscopy, a small cancerous spot on Timothy’s lung – about the size of a pea – was discovered in the earliest stages. Not long after diagnosis, Timothy underwent surgery at Providence St. Peter Hospital and is now cancer free.

“I only stayed two days in the hospital and was up walking the very next day after my operation,” he says. “The doctors were excellent. All of my care was great, and the spirit of compassion made a huge difference.”

Providence St. Peter Hospital: 500 Patients Served and Counting

Providence Swedish installed ION technology in October 2022. Since then, it has shortened the time to lung cancer diagnosis and treatment by 2 to 3 weeks.

Dr. Dominique Pepper. Photo courtesy: Providence Swedish

“We’ve increased our success at diagnosing lung nodules from 50% in 2021 to 85% in 2023,” said Pepper. “And now, we can dramatically increase the number of patients with very early-stage lung cancer to help improve their 5-year survival rate to 92%. Following implementation of our program, 12-month survival from lung cancer increased from 68% to 80%, testament to the phenomenal team we are fortunate to work with and benefit we can now provide our patients.”

For more information about lung cancer screening, or if you are at high risk for lung cancer or between the ages of 50-80, schedule a lung cancer screening on the Providence Swedish website.

Providence St. Peters Hospital’s dedicated pulmonology lung nodule clinic is located at 500 Lilly Road NE, Suite 204, Olympia. For more information, call 360.413.8272.

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