Lung cancer kills more people in the United States than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined. One reason for this is that lung cancer often goes undetected until its later stages, which leads to a high mortality rate. There's also a social stigma around smoking tobacco, so patients are often reluctant to tell their providers if they smoke or to seek help to stop smoking. What’s more, most lung cancer screening resources are found in major cities despite rural counties often having the highest mortality rates. Patients in rural areas often can’t afford the time and money to travel for lung cancer screening.
CHI Memorial is a not-for-profit, faith-based health system. They offer preventive, primary, and acute care with more than 600 affiliated physicians throughout Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia.
To address underlying access barriers to lung cancer screenings, particularly in underserved areas, CHI Memorial created a prototype mobile lung CT unit. They outfitted a bus with a CT scanner and called it Breathe Easy. They then worked with community organizations and leaders to find areas where they could park the bus and offer lung cancer screenings to people who might not otherwise be able to be screened. “The mobile program brings the imaging center to the patient,” says the program leader, Dr. Rob Headrick.
In the first 10 months of 2018, the bus traveled to 104 sites, screened 548 patients, and caught lung cancers. Fueled by that success, CHI Memorial is now building a second bus for lung cancer screening. Covid-19 has made many patients afraid to go to the hospital. But throughout the pandemic, the bus has continued to provide screenings.
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