Ochsner Health physicians and their medical staff team in New Orleans are making major headway in detecting and treating lung cancer in Louisiana. According to Nola.com last year Dr. Susan Gunn, a specialist in Pulmonary Critical Care, became the first physician in the state to use a Robotic-Assisted Bronchoscopy to examine a patient’s lungs. This advanced technology has a camera on the tip of a flexible tube that allows doctors to look at a patient's air passages.

Dr. Gunn has used the device more than 100 times since last fall and said, it has significantly lowered the risk of a patient's lung collapsing during a procedure. Gunn added, “This technology allows us to make a thorough map of a patient’s airways and target nodules that may need to undergo a biopsy.” She continued. “The pathologists are on hand to review it right away while the patient is under the same anesthesia. If it is determined to be cancer, our surgeons can perform a minimally invasive, robotic surgery to remove the cancer. In those situations, the patient goes to sleep worried if they have cancer and wakes up knowing that they have been treated.”

Thoracic Surgical Oncologist at Ochsner's Cancer Care Center, Dr. Brian Pettiford says the robotic bronchoscopy is a game changer in the fight against lung cancer. It's easier on the patient and allows them to receive treatment a lot faster. It eliminates several steps, appointments, and additional procedures Dr. Pettiford explained. “Once a nodule is identified, they have to see a pulmonologist, then they are usually referred to an interventional radiologist who does a CT scan and perhaps a biopsy. If it is cancer, we have to evaluate the patient and see if they are a candidate for surgery. Imagine rolling all of that into one or two visits and the patient only has to be on the operating table once. It makes a huge difference for them.”

Ochsner Health in New Orleans is home to one of the largest comprehensive cancer centers in the Gulf South Region. Dr. Pettiford is not only one of the best doctors, but the most unique because he specializes in lung-related surgeries. The only thing better than that is soon Ochsner will be adding a second lung cancer surgeon to his team! This is truly phenomenal news for Louisiana and more importantly, brings a new source of hope to lung cancer patients and their families. Dr. Gunn said of Dr. Pettiford. “There are a lot of surgeons who are not necessarily cancer-specific or thoracic-specific.”

Dr. Gunn also recommended that people get screened for lung cancer starting at age 50. This is especially true for a person with significant risk factors, particularly a history of smoking. However, both Dr. Gunn and Dr. Pettiford noted that they have treated more patients 65 and older. In addition, both doctors have also seen a number of non-smokers with lung cancer. Bottom line, an early diagnosis offers the best chance for survival. Ochsner Health is the Souths leader in robotic surgery and proud to have a new weapon in their arsenal to help fight lung cancer. They are the first in the state to offer a robotic-assisted option for lung biopsy. For more info or to schedule an appointment, visit www.ochsner.org/cancer-care.

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