Posted on Aug 27, 2021, 3 p.m.
The WVU Cancer Institute and WVU Medicine – WVU Hospitals has unveiled LUCAS, a fully mobile unit that will traverse West Virginia providing lung cancer screening in rural areas. It is the first of its kind in the nation.
LUCAS, an acronym for Lung Cancer Screening, is the only fully mobile artificial-intelligence-powered CT unit for low-dose lung cancer screening in the nation that will travel statewide without the need for facility-based power, enabling broader access to high-quality care. The industry’s first continuously powered fully mobile solution enables high throughput, minimizing wait times for patients. LUCAS will serve patients from across the state with visits in the 42 counties without immediate access to lung cancer screening services.
This new venture builds upon the successful operations and infrastructure associated with Bonnie’s Bus, which has provided more than 23,000 screening mammograms and discovered more than 110 cases of breast cancer since 2009. Both mobile units fall under the WVU Cancer Institute Mobile Cancer Screening Program, are coordinated by the Institute’s Cancer Prevention and Control, and operate under a partnership between the WVU Cancer Institute and WVU Hospitals.
“The residents of most West Virginia counties do not currently have access to this type of screening within their borders, and there are only a limited number of facilities in the state registered to provide comprehensive screening services,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president, and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System, said. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned through the hub-and-spoke model we’ve adopted for our Health System, it’s that we need to meet people where they are rather than have them travel to us for their care. Our Mobile Cancer Screening Program is an extension of that model, and we believe LUCAS will fill the gap in lung cancer screening in the state.”
Regular lung cancer screening can detect cancer early when it is easier to treat and cure, thereby decreasing the human and economic impact of lung cancer for West Virginians.
According to the 2019 West Virginia Cancer Burden Report, lung cancer accounts for 18 percent of all new cancer cases diagnosed in West Virginia. Approximately 2,047 West Virginians are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and approximately 1,460 West Virginians will die from lung cancer each year.
Only 22 percent of people are diagnosed at a local stage before the cancer has spread, and half of the West Virginians diagnosed with lung cancer will have distant metastasis, meaning the cancer has spread beyond the lungs. More West Virginians die of lung cancer than colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer combined.
According to the U.S. Preventive Service Guidelines, low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) is recommended for people who:
- Are 50 to 80 years old,
- Have a 20 pack-year smoking history, and
- Are either a current smoker or smoker who quit in the past 15 years.
A pack-year is determined by multiplying packs smoked per day by the number of years smoked. For example, one pack a day times 35 years smoking equals 35 pack-years.
Insurance coverage for LDCT varies. No eligible West Virginian who does not have insurance will ever be turned away. Grant funds and donations are available to pay for lung cancer screening for those without insurance coverage.
“A mobile unit can provide lung cancer screening and then refer patients in need of follow-up to facilities closest to their homes, as many people are often not willing or able to travel for cancer screening,” Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, M.D., director of the WVU Cancer Institute, said.
“With the success we’ve had with Bonnie’s Bus and breast cancer, we felt that launching a similar program for lung cancer screening was the next best step to eliminate the burden of travel for our patients and to begin reversing the rates of lung cancer in West Virginia. For those who need to come to one of our facilities for follow-up care, we are ready and waiting to assist in whatever manner we can.”
The WVU Cancer Institute and WVU Hospitals are collaborating with Canon Medical Systems USA, Inc. and the Lung Cancer Initiative at Johnson & Johnson* on LUCAS to reduce the impact of lung cancer in West Virginia by promoting earlier detection and awareness, which supports the collective mission of these organizations.
The goals of the collaboration are to:
- Reduce barriers to lung cancer screening in West Virginia and beyond.
- Create a pilot project that can serve as a national model.
- Contribute to new science in early lung cancer detection.
- Increase awareness of individuals who are eligible for lung cancer screening.
- Save lives.
LUCAS will begin traveling to West Virginia communities this month. With COVID protocols, it can see up to 20 patients in one day for lung cancer screening.
To find out more about LUCAS, visit WVUCancer.org/LUCAS or call 304-293-2370 to speak to a Cancer Prevention and Control staff member. Information can also be found on Facebook at Facebook.com/WVUCIMobile.
For more information on the WVU Cancer Institute, visit WVUMedicine.org/Cancer.
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