As the leading cause of cancer death and the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the state, lung cancer is particularly challenging in the Land of Enchantment. The key to beating any cancer is catching it early, which is especially difficult in New Mexico, where geographic, cultural and lan¬guage barriers mean fewer than 20 percent of lung cancer cases in the state are caught at an early and more curable stage.
But there is hope. The UNM Cancer Center is at the forefront of advancing lung cancer knowledge and treatment, pairing multidisciplinary teams of experts with the most sophisticated treatment options. Most recently, the UNM Cancer Center acquired an endobronchial ultrasound system, or EBUS. This sys¬tem is a highly accurate tool for understanding how far cancer has spread, which is vital for effective treatment planning.
Unlike many biopsy tools, the EBUS does not require surgery and gives physicians unprecedented access to affected tissues. “Previously, the only way to sample the lymph nodes that surround the trachea and breathing tubes has been to do it surgically in the operating room. With EBUS, many of those nodes are now accessible for sampling in an outpatient setting,” said Dr. Richard Crowell, Director of the EBUS program at the UNM Cancer Center and faculty member in the Department of Internal Medicine.
During the procedure, an ultrasound screen displays the locations of the lymph nodes, directing physicians to the exact area to be sampled. The procedure takes between 30 and 45 minutes. The whole process, including anesthetic and recovery, takes roughly three hours, requires no hospital stay and results are delivered within a few days.
“We are the only Center in the state to combine this technology with our multidisciplinary teams of cancer experts,” said Crowell. “Thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pulmo¬nary physicians, social workers, nutritionists and clinical research support teams work with each other and the latest technology to provide the fin¬est cancer treatment for every patient.” “Having technology like this really enhances our ability to provide world-class cancer care. The EBUS is helping us to quickly and accurately stage and start treatments for lung cancer patients in New Mexico.”
If you are interested in learning more about the EBUS biopsy procedure, please contact the UNM Cancer Center at 505-272-4946.