Tucson Medical Center Invests in Robot to Catch Lung Cancer Earlier

When it comes to lung cancer, early diagnosis and treatment are key to curing and surviving the disease.

Knowing this, Tucson Medical Center invested in Intuitive Surgical Inc.’s Ion endolumina system, which allows for earlier biopsy and treatment for suspected lung cancers– in a matter of hours, rather than weeks. TMC is the only hospital in Southern Arizona to have this option for patients.

The Ion is a new robotic platform for minimally invasive biopsy in the peripheral lung. Since the system features an ultra-thin and maneuverable catheter, it can navigate far into the peripheral lung with the precision needed for biopsy. It also includes an integrated vision probe so the doctor has real-time vision of the airways while reaching targeted areas.

“This means patients no longer have to wait until lung nodules grow to a certain size in order to have a biopsy,” said pulmonologist Dr. Chang-Kun Charles Choi. “It enables doctors to discover and treat the cancer before it is in advanced stages, creating higher rates of survival and better outcomes for patients.”

Currently, most patients are already in stage three or four cancer by the time they discover the disease, with only about 20% of them surviving more than five years.

“It’s depressing getting so many patients who are in advanced stages of cancer,” Choi said. “Being able to biopsy nodules earlier will dramatically increase survivability. Take breast cancer, for example. Before early screenings, survival was much lower, now it is about 90%. My hope is to see the same thing happen for lung cancer patients.”

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