World-class procedure at Methodist helps detect lung cancer early


Ahmed Agameya, MD, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Carle Health Methodist Hospital, Peoria, met with a woman in her 70s who was a long-time smoker with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She had a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan, which identified a small, 10-millimeter nodule in her lung.

Dr. Agameya told the patient that he didn’t know whether the nodule was cancer. In addition, she was at risk for pneumothorax, a collapsed lung, if she elected to have a biopsy. She could wait three months and get another scan to determine whether the nodule was growing.

Or she could undergo a world-class procedure at Methodist and know in a few days whether she had cancer. If so, treatments could begin quickly and reduce her risk of a collapsed lung.

“She chose the option to have the procedure right away so she wouldn’t have to worry about it for three months,” Dr. Agameya said.

Two days later, she had an ION Robotic Assisted Bronchoscopy at Methodist. The procedure confirmed that she had adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer.

She was treated with stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which killed the cancer cells, and she remains in remission.

The patient’s story illustrates the advantage of the leading-edge procedure at Methodist. ION helps to diagnose lung cancer by getting biopsies of nodules that are small and difficult to reach using conventional methods.

The earlier the provider can diagnose the cancer, the sooner treatments can begin, increasing patients’ odds of a good outcome. That’s especially relevant in lung cancer because most patients with lung cancer are diagnosed at a late stage when they have a 20% chance of surviving another five years, Dr. Agameya said. Patients diagnosed at the earliest stage of 1A, like the patient above, have a five-year survival rate of more than 90%, he said.

“With the increasing use of CT scans, more lung nodules are being discovered, and more biopsies are needed to help diagnose lung cancer at early stages when it is curable and has a five-year survival rate of greater than 90%,” Dr. Agameya said.

For patients whose abnormal growths are noncancerous, the early results from ION bring peace of mind.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends lung cancer screening for patients age 50 and older who smoked for 20 pack years (one pack per day for 20 years). While this is an effort to detect lung cancer when it is treatable, only 4.5% of those eligible were screened in 2022, Dr. Agameya said.

Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer-related deaths. More people die of lung cancer every year than of breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. ION Robotic Assisted Bronchoscopy is one way that Carle Health is working to improve lung cancer outcomes by detecting more cancer at an early stage.

Since ION Robotic Assisted Bronchoscopy began at Methodist two years ago, more than 200 procedures have been performed. Dr. Agameya is the sole pulmonologist performing the procedure there. Methodist is the only hospital in the Peoria/Pekin market and the only hospital in the Carle Health system to offer ION Robotic Assisted Bronchoscopy.

Thanks to this unique service, during the past two years, more than 200 community members learned whether they have cancer sooner. Dr. Agameya and Amy Hill, RN-BSN, CNOR (certified nurse-operating room), Methodist surgical services director, said diagnostic yield (accurate diagnosis) of lung cancer is up to 94% at Methodist using ION Robotic Assisted Bronchoscopy, compared with about 80% using traditional bronchoscopy, and the risk of pneumothorax (leaking of air outside the lung, leading to a collapsed lung) is down to 1-3%, compared with 25% with percutaneous biopsies.

“I feel proud of being able to bring to Peoria the most advanced technology in the field of lung cancer, and being able to help our patients with lung cancer to improve their outcomes through early diagnosis and treatment without compromising their safety,” Dr. Agameya said.

Hill said, “It’s exciting to be at a hospital that has this technology. This is huge for this community.”

“We’ve reached a lot of people with ION already, and our team is eager to benefit even more people as they learn that we have this technology,” Hill said. “When we can diagnose and treat faster, there’s less anxiety and better outcomes for the patient.”

ION is an innovative technology developed by Intuitive to assist pulmonologists in reaching small nodules (as little as 8 millimeters) in areas that are difficult to reach using traditional bronchoscopy. The technology has improved accuracy compared with the previous technology, electromagnetic navigation, Dr. Agameya said. The ION bronchoscopy platform uses a proprietary shape-sensing technology that keeps the catheter focused on the lesion during biopsy and helps prevent inaccurate sampling.

Hill, Dr. Agameya and Carle Health look forward to growing the ION service and helping more patients suspected of having lung cancer.

For more information, call (309) 672-4433.

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