Saint Luke’s News: Interventional Pulmonology: The new sub-specialty that’s catching lung cancer early in Kansas City

Doctors holding x-ray of lungs

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, accounting for more each year than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. But a new report by the American Lung Association found more men and women are surviving the cancer than ever before.

“Lung cancer is a major problem in the United States, and the best way to prevent these deaths is to diagnose it early,” said Dr. Matthew Aboudara, an interventional pulmonologist with Saint Luke’s Health System. “The way to diagnose it early without having to do surgeries is to do minimally invasive diagnostic tests and procedures.”

That’s where interventional pulmonology comes in.

Saint Luke’s is the only hospital in the Kansas City area with a team of two fellowship-trained interventional pulmonologists. Dr. Tim Saettele and Dr. Aboudara specialize in advanced minimally invasive diagnostic tests and procedures for lung, airway, and pleural disease-related issues.

The team sees patients from across the region, from those who live in the Kansas City metro to those who travel to Saint Luke’s from Nebraska, Illinois, and Oklahoma.

“Interventional pulmonology is a relatively new field in medicine,” Dr. Saettele said. “The whole goal is to make things easier for the patient by bringing it all into one specialty.”

Five years ago, patients with suspected lung cancer would have to meet with several different physicians and undergo several invasive procedures along the way. The whole process could take months.

“Now, our team can see the patient and schedule them for a single procedure to help diagnose the cancer, stage the cancer, and get them all the things they need in one stop while doing it in a safer, minimally invasive way,” said Dr. Saettele. “We can get it done in just a couple of weeks.”

Aside from catching early stage lung cancer, the interventional pulmonology team is trained to safely remove tumors or blockage in the airways, which is common with lung cancer. Removing these blockages can dramatically improve a person’s chance of survival and quality of life than just chemotherapy and radiation alone.

Lung cancer is just one of many conditions the team is trained to diagnose and help treat. The team also helps patients with chest cancers, nodules or masses in the lungs, enlarged lymph nodes, fluid buildup around the lungs, emphysema, COPD, and more.

“We’re able to do comprehensive diagnosing and staging to determine whether these people can go get treatment and a potential cure, or if they need a procedure to get them well enough for chemotherapy and radiation,” Dr. Aboudara said. “There is a good chance some patients would have to go to hospice or may not survive without the advances of interventional pulmonology.”

The Saint Luke’s team remains on the leading edge of the quickly growing field of medicine, traveling across the country to learn the latest and most advanced treatments.

Learn more about Saint Luke’s Pulmonary Specialists and find the location nearest you.

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