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Health Spotlight: Ohio State researchers make breakthrough in lung cancer detection

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States in both men and women. Approximately 127,000 people are expected to die from lung cancer this year.

Lung cancer is often caught at later stages, but when doctors detect it early, it can be cured. Researchers are now looking at a program using artificial intelligence to catch cancers that might be easy to miss.

Steven Porter is his family’s historian. Porter curates old photos and traces family 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 said.

Porter says he knows he’s lucky. Only 6% of Americans eligible for lung cancer screenings with a low-dose CT scan actually get it done. But researchers have created a new program to detect lung spots or nodules that might go undetected.

Ohio State researchers and clinicians have created a system to evaluate all CT scans, not just those of lungs cancer patients, using AI to evaluate written radiology reports.

Dr. Jasleen Pannu, an interventional pulmonologist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, says CT scans occur often. “If they’ve had a heart attack, if they’ve had a motor vehicle accident, if they’ve had pneumonia — they undergo a CT scan,” Dr. Pannu said.

Dr. Pannu says if a radiologist has reported a nodule of a certain size during these CT scans, those nodules can be flagged and further evaluated so they don’t slip through the cracks.

Porter says though his screening was scheduled, he knows the importance of catching cancer early.

“I was feeling fine. I wouldn’t have gone, and, you know, next year, it may have been too late,” Porter said.