Medical Professional Wearing PPE

Lung cancer is a deadly disease, especially when it isn’t caught early.

The five-year survival rate for lung cancer diagnosed before it has spread is 56%, according to the National Cancer Institute. The survival rate drops to 6% when lung cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.

Those numbers illustrate the importance of early detection in saving lives.

A new tool known as the robotic bronchoscopy system can help diagnose lung cancer early, increasing a patient’s odds of survival.

What Are the Benefits of Robotic Bronchoscopy?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, it kills more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined. The survival rates are especially low if lung cancer isn’t detected early.

A patient may get a CT scan if they are showing symptoms or if they are at higher risk of developing lung cancer. If the scan shows a nodule, doctors may need to take a sample for biopsy.

Robotic bronchoscopy can be a better option for people than traditional bronchoscopy, in which doctors guide the scope by hand.

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How Does Robotic Bronchoscopy Work?

Robotic bronchoscopy can be used if someone has a lung nodule, or a spot on the lung. These can be caused by several different conditions, including cancer.

When a lung nodule is detected with a CT scan, doctors often need a biopsy to make a diagnosis. If the nodule is deep in the lung and hard to reach, robotic bronchoscopy can help. The robot, which has arms that move only when the doctor directs them, can make tiny, precise movements that would be difficult to perform using traditional methods.

Doctors also use a CT scan to determine the best pathway to the nodule. Using a hand-held controller, they can guide the robot’s arms, which hold a bronchoscope — a flexible tube with a light and fiberoptic camera — to the area of the lung with the nodule. They can view their progress on a screen in real time.

Using a biopsy needle inserted through the scope, doctors take a sample of the nodule for testing.

What Is Robotic Bronchoscopy? Understanding a Tool for Early Cancer Detection

The hand-held controller allows for easier, smoother navigation to the target area of the lung. The bronchoscope tube is flexible, able to turn in any direction, and it can reach areas of the lung that traditional bronchoscopy can’t. Advanced camera technology and 3D computer modeling allows doctors to see what is happening through both virtual imaging and in real time. Doctors can watch the biopsy needle as it goes into a tumor, which could not be done before.

With robotic technology, the doctor can use a controller to direct the probe, see exactly where it is going, and identify the best spots to take biopsy samples. With the robot, the physician can go in as far as they need to look directly at the lesion and rotate the tool to look at lesions from every angle.

The tool can allow doctors to more easily biopsy smaller and harder-to-reach areas of the lung. That can lead to earlier diagnosis and better chances of survival.

Cancer Care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, our team of experts can provide world-class care for your individual needs.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is western Pennsylvania’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. We offer state-of-the-art testing and treatment options — including robotic bronchoscopy — to better diagnose and treat all types of cancer.

For more information about UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, call 412-647-2811 or visit us online.

American Cancer Society, Lung Cancer, Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging, Lung Nodules. Link

American Cancer Society, Lung Cancer, Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. Link

Auris Health, Why Monarch Platform? Link

Septimiu Dan Murgu, BMC Pulmonary Medicine, Robotic Assisted-Bronchoscopy: Technical Tips and Lessons Learned From the Initial Experience With Sampling Peripheral Lung Lesions. Link

National Cancer Institute, SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2015, Cancer of the Lung and Bronchus. Link

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.