Ivey’s announcement brings awareness to new treatment options

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey apologies after blackface controversy surfaces this week.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey apologies after blackface controversy surfaces this week.
Published: Sep. 20, 2019 at 5:17 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Governor Kay Ivey will begin radiation treatments Friday in Birmingham for lung cancer.

We talked with a surgeon about lung cancer and about a rare piece of technology that’s changing how it’s treated.

“The primary examination to look for an early stage lung cancer is a CT scan. It’s a radiology test that gives a very focused look at the lungs to look for a small nodule within the lung," says Princeton Baptist thoracic surgeon Dr. Douglas Minnich.

That CT scan is usually only approved for those who smoke at least 30 packs of cigarettes a year. However, you don’t have to be a smoker to get lung cancer. For instance if you’re exposed to asbestos, radon or second-hand smoke, or if you have a family history of the disease, you can also be affected.

“The primary treatment in a patient that has the pulmonary and cardiac function to tolerate an operation would be surgical resection," says Dr. Minnich.

However, if they don’t have the lung or heart function to tolerate the invasive surgery, there is a focused type of radiation therapy as another option and is an outpatient procedure. Doctors at Princeton Baptist are excited about new technology emerging in this field.

Winston is a device that performs robotic bronchoscopies. It offers a more precise, image-guided approach at accessing through the esophagus, and diagnosing small nodules within the lung. This type of equipment is only one of 16 in the world and here at Princeton they’ve only had it about a month and have already performed 28 surgeries.

“We are fortunate in that we have had a 100 percent diagnostic rate so far," said Dr. Minnich.

This is the only one in the state of Alabama. This tiny guy has a complete range of motion once it is inserted into the patient through intubation.

“The controller has a forwards and backwards lever for the bronchoscope, and a steerable controller to control the directionality.”

And while he can’t speculate on how the governor will be affected without knowing about her specific case, he can say she will be up and moving almost immediately after her procedure.

“It actually helps with pain control, helps decrease the chance of other complications and helps reinflate their remaining lung to minimize their overall comorbidities,” said Dr. Minnich.

Governor Ivey says she will undergo an outpatient procedure tomorrow at UAB. She says this was caught early and is very treatable.

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