Quebec’s first lung cancer screening program

Last year, in 2018, the Montreal Chest Institute Foundation (MCIF) dedicated its annual appeal to raising funds to start the first Lung Cancer Screening Program in Quebec at the Montreal Chest Institute (MCI). Located at the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), the MCI is the first hospital in Quebec to offer this ground-breaking initiative which uses special CT scans that provide low doses of radiation to detect lung cancers before they cause symptoms, on high-risk patients.

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada, and the leading cause of death in Canadians. To put it into perspective, on average, 78 Canadians were diagnosed with lung cancer and 58 Canadians died from lung cancer daily, in 2017 . In Quebec, more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer. Unfortunately, lung cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, when it has already spread outside of the lungs and when it is too late to be cured. That is why early diagnosis is critical for a lung cancer to be treated and cured. Screening for lung cancer has been shown to increase survival from lung cancer up to 26% in high-risk men and up to 61% in high-risk women over a 10-year period! This is the most important change in lung cancer management in the last 20 years and has revolutionized care for lung cancer patients.

Since its inception, there has been a lot going on at the Montreal Chest Institute’s (MCI) Lung Cancer Screening Program. Dr. Nicole Ezer and team have been busy in the first stages of implementing new services within the program, not to mention conducting phone interviews with potential at-risk patients eligible for early screening.

This revolutionary program has already gained traction throughout the province as other hospitals have contacted Dr. Ezer’s team to obtain more information on how it is run. In addition, the program has been collaborating with the Quebec government to ensure their work is made available to other partners across the province.

The Lung Cancer Screening Program has already received calls from 96 patients interested in being screened. All patients had their personalized risk calculated after a phone call with the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Lung Cancer Screening Program. Of these patients, 56 were eligible for lung cancer screening because their risk was identified as being elevated. Fifty patients received smoking cessation interventions following their call or visit to the Lung Cancer Screening Program. As it stands, there are 20 people to be screened in September, with more patients calling daily! Since the program started in late 2018, five people have been identified with possible lung cancers requiring additional tests, and one person has a confirmed diagnosis of lung cancer.

New initiatives in the works

Currently, Dr. Ezer and team are in the process of establishing a bio-bank of blood samples from interested patients to use in future studies to identify lung cancer within the blood stream and potentially avoid the need for a biopsy. The option for bio-banking will be offered to patients in September 2019.

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