Vanderbilt’s Lung Screening Program working to make sure screenings happen despite pandemic


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Lung cancer is prevalent in Kentucky and Tennessee due to high levels of smoking and exposure to radon. Lung screenings using a low-dose CT scan are recommended for long-term smokers aged 55 to 80, a group deemed high risk for lung cancer.

Early detection greatly increases odds of survival, but the pandemic threw a wrench in Vanderbilt’s Lung Screening Program earlier in the year.

Dr. Kim Sandler, an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt’s Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, told News 2, “COVID has really thrown everyone. So, in March, we pretty much shut down all cancer screening for one to two months, depending on the type of screening. The lung cancer screening program shut down for about two months.”

Screenings have resumed after the initial pause, but some patients are wary of the threat posed by COVID-19, “We had over 80 patients who reported not coming in because of either having a COVID exposure or being worried about a COVID exposure during the appointment. And we have several patients who are waiting, who have delayed that follow-up screening appointment or even a baseline screening.”

It’s hard to understate how important early detection is when it comes to lung cancer, “With lung cancer, if you find it early, there’s about a 90-percent survival rate at five years, but it’s less than ten percent if that disease has spread outside the lungs. So, catching it early is really important.”

Vanderbilt has been taking steps to minimize the risk for their patients, including using Telehealth appointments when possible, changing the way the screening equipment is cleaned, and having patients wait in their cars before their screening.

“I think it’s really important for patients and referring providers to know that we recognize the risk to our patients, and we know how important it is to take the necessary steps and protocols to minimize that risk.” 

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