8/30/02 - Cancer Screening Blue Light - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

8/30/02 - Cancer Screening Blue Light

Lung cancer kills more people every year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Even though it is the deadliest form of cancer in the country, it might surprise you to know there are no screening programs in place to try to catch it early. Now that could be changing. Doctors are testing a device that uses a little blue light to catch cancer early and make a big difference in treating the disease.

When Rick Carlson first started hanging dry wall 30 years ago, asbestos was common in construction. Rick was exposed to it almost every day, which increased his risk of getting lung cancer. But that wasn't his only risk factor.

"The other factor is, I smoked for several years and another factor is my brother had lung cancer." To see if he was at risk rick went to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York where doctors are testing a little blue light that is inserted into the patient's lungs to spot even the smallest signs of cancer.

Dr. Greg Loewen says, "The blue light literally doubles our ability to detect those early, flat lesions of developing lung cancer along the airways." Dr. Loewen is leading the study. He says with a normal scope, the lungs appear to be pink and healthy. But when the fluorescent blue light is inserted, it highlights certain areas which proved to be pre-cancer cells, invisible to the human eye.

Catching lung cancer early means treating it early and that can mean the difference between life and death. Dr. Loewen says, "Early lung cancer is quite treatable, and often curable. The problem is really that, 85% of patients that present to us with lung cancer already have advanced lung cancer." Studies being done at Roswell Park put patients through two different tests, a "cat" scan looks for signs of cancer in the outside areas of the lungs, the blue light looks for signs deep inside the lungs. Doctors there are hoping the tests someday prove effective and efficient enough, that screenings like this become more common and save more lives.

Right now the tests are too expensive to perform on everyone, so the studies are only focusing on high-risk patients. A blue light isn't just being used to detect lung cancer. Tuesday, on Heartland News at five, you'll see how doctors in one Heartland town are using a special blue light to detect cervical cancer.

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