GPS Tracks Down Lung Cancer

Each year 200,000 Americans are told they have lung cancer, and out of those 160,000 die.

This is mainly because patients are diagnosed in the late stages when the cancer has already spread.

Now, there's a new way to spot tumors earlier, and it's similar to a GPS system for your lungs.

Arranging a homemade bouquet is one way Natalie Barnhill celebrates today's special milestone.

"It was my last chemo," says cancer patient Natalie Barnhill.

Natalie was diagnosed with lung cancer. When doctors spotted the growth on a scan, they told her about a new biopsy method.

"It's basically like a GPS system," says Dr. Samir Makani, MD, FCCP, a Interventional Pulmonologist at the University of California, San Diego.

Doctor Samir Makani performs electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy.

First, he maps the target using special software. Then, he places a bronchoscope down the patient's windpipe. A catheter navigates to the tumor in real-time.

"It just takes me to where the lesion is," says Dr. Makani.

A traditional biopsy may require a needle through the chest and into the lung and could cause bleeding, or a collapsed lung. Electromagnetic navigation nearly eliminates the risks.

"It's really allowed us to biopsy areas which we weren't able to biopsy earlier, prove that there is lung cancer there, and then provide them with early definitive therapy," explains Dr. Makani.

Because of this technology, Natalie was diagnosed in the early stages. She's determined to beat the same cancer that killed her mother and her aunt. She's now cancer-free and enjoying all the beauty around her.

Doctors can even use the navigation technology to mark parts of the lung with dye, in order to help surgeons locate the area to cut out.

The technology also helps oncologists find where to place radio markers when using radiation to treat lung tumors.


TOPIC: GPS Tracks Down Lung Cancer
REPORT: MB #3708

BACKGROUND: Lung cancer is the growth of abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably in one or both lungs. These abnormal formations may cause tumors that may prevent oxygen being transported to the body. There are two forms of lung cancer: primary and secondary. Primary lung cancer originates in the lungs and may travel to another part of the body. Secondary lung cancer occurs when cancer forms in another part of the body, then spreads to the lungs. (Source:

SYMPTOMS: At times, symptoms for lung cancer may take years to develop. They may not even be noticed until the disease has progressed. Common symptoms include:

• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Changes in voice
• Coughing up blood
• Intense coughing
• Coughing up mucus or phlegm (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Rather than performing traditional needle biopsies, doctors are now turning to a new procedure. It is being described as a GPS system: electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB). It extends the reach of the bronchoscope to regions deep within the lung enabling doctors to locate small lung lesions for diagnostic testing and potential treatment. The system uses natural airway access, and implements proprietary software and electromagnetic technology. ENB is a less invasive procedure. It also provides the ability to detect lung disease and lung cancer earlier, even before symptoms are evident, enhancing treatment options for patients. (Source:


Samir Makani, MD, FCCP
Director, Interventional Pulmonology and Bronchoscopy
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine
University of California, San Diego and San Diego VA Healthcare System
(619) 543-5840

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