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Published on December 06, 2019

Technology Helps Jim and his Doctor Fight Lung Cancer

jim on his tractor

Game-Changing Tool Helps Jim Fight Lung Cancer

Jim's high-risk biopsy was a success thanks to new technology offered at Bryan.

Jim Jones, 75, of Humboldt first met with pulmonologist Ryan Martin, MD, of Lincoln Pulmonary Specialties after his family nurse practitioner saw something worrisome on Jim’s chest X-ray. Dr. Martin found that Jim had a 1.5-inch-long tumor in his lung. An important question remained — was it cancer or a less dangerous benign tumor? Dr. Martin planned a biopsy, a procedure that would remove a very small amount of tissue from Jim’s tumor for testing, to find out. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and nearly 100 million people in the United States are at risk for it due to current and former smoking or other factors. When patients like Jim, who was a smoker, have symptoms such as abnormal X-ray findings that suggest they might have lung cancer, they need answers as quickly as possible. The sooner they have a diagnosis, the better are the patient’s chances for successful treatment.

Early detection means everything

In such cases, pulmonologists perform biopsies to collect cells for diagnostic testing. Biopsies can’t provide answers, though, if they don’t collect enough tumor cells for complete testing. Such “incomplete sampling” can delay lung cancer diagnosis and potentially life-saving therapy. In Jim’s case, getting enough cells during his biopsy was difficult because the tumor lay right alongside his aorta, the very large vessel carrying blood from the heart into the rest of the body. So, Dr. Martin needed to biopsy the lung tumor without nicking or otherwise injuring the aorta, which might have caused very serious bleeding around Jim’s heart and lungs.

SPiN is the answer

To successfully perform Jim’s high-risk biopsy, Dr. Martin used Veran’s SPiN Access Catheter System, a game-changing lung biopsy tool recently purchased by Bryan Health. The SPiN Access Catheter is the latest version of an existing instrument that allows surgeons a three-dimensional view of hard-to-reach tumors during biopsies. Dr. Martin says this tool worked perfectly in Jim’s case.

“Using the new SPiN Catheter’s precise guidance system I made six tiny biopsies on the side of the tumor farthest away from the aorta, taking just a few cells at each site,” he explains. In this way, he performed Jim’s lung tumor biopsy without injuring the nearby aorta. Dr. Martin says the SPiN system is a significant advance.

“With it, doctors can take samples from difficult-to-reach or very small tumors we couldn’t have biopsied five or 10 years ago," he said. "This lets us find lung cancer earlier when it’s present, and start patients’ treatment sooner. I use the new SPiN Catheter at Bryan for most of my patients now, because it helps me target the tumor precisely and take cell samples from many tumor areas. That way, it's very likely we‘ll get all the cells we need during the biopsy."

Dr. Martin and his colleagues working with Bryan pioneered the SPiN Access Catheter System in Nebraska — patients would otherwise need to go to Kansas City, Denver or Des Moines for the procedure.

Happy ending for Jim

Jim also is pleased with the procedure.

“My experience was excellent. I was asleep the whole time and had no pain or bad side effects afterward — it was as smooth as anyone could hope for,” he says. “Also, the nurses who took care of me at Bryan were great; they explained everything before and after the biopsy, and I was able to go home the same day.”

Learn more about lung cancer treatment at Bryan Health.

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