COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States in both men and women. One hundred twenty-seven thousand people will die from it this year. It’s often caught in a later stage but when doctors detect it early, it can be cured. Researchers are now looking at a program – using artificial intelligence – to catch the tiniest cancers that might be easy to miss.

Steven Porter is his family’s historian, curating old photos and tracing his roots on genealogy websites. Porter says there’s no history of cancer in his family but as a former smoker, his doctor advised him to get screened.

“In 2022, I went and that’s when they found the solid nodule. They took enough of it during the biopsy that they knew they had it all,” Porter recalls.

Porter knows he’s lucky and he’s in the minority. Only six percent of all Americans eligible for lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan actually get it done. But now, there’s a new program to detect tiny lung spots, or nodules that might otherwise go undetected.

Ohio State researchers and clinicians have created a system to evaluateall CT scans, not just those of lung cancer patients.

“If they’ve had a heart attack, if they’ve had a motor vehicle or accident. If they’ve had a pneumonia and they undergo a CT scan,” explains Ohio State Wexner Medical Center interventional pulmonologist, Jasleen Pannu, MD.

The team uses automated natural language processing tools – artificial intelligence – to evaluate written radiology reports.

Dr. Pannu further explains. “If there is a radiologist that has reported a lung nodule of a certain size, these can be flagged and followed up.”

Dr. Pannu says when nodules are detected unexpectedly, the patient’s CT scan is further evaluated so they won’t fall through the cracks. Steven Porter’s screening was scheduled but either way, he knows the importance of catching the cancer early.

Dr. Pannu says at Ohio State alone, 1,000 new, early-stage cancers could be caught by screening lung nodules found unexpectedly. She says when patients come into the hospital for emergency treatment and undergo CT scans, tiny nodules can be overlooked because the medical team is focused on the emergency at hand.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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American Lung Association