Grandfather’s lifesaver! Ion robot targets lung cancer

WGEM News at Five
Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 6:10 PM CDT
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (WGEM) – Lung cancer — it’s the leading cancer killer in men and women nationally. The five-year survival rate is only about twenty percent, that’s because by the time you know you have it, the cancer has progressed. But if doctors can diagnose it earlier, the cure rate is over 90 percent. A new way to spot it and remove lung cancer is giving patients hope of surviving it.

Rodney Poche is on a mission collecting enough special coins to give to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and that adds up to quite a lot of coins!

“Six kids, 30 grandkids, eight great grand kids, and three on the way,” Rodney shares with Ivanhoe.

Rodney feels blessed for each day he has with his family. Doctors found cancer in his kidney — they removed that two years ago, then it spread to his lung.

Robotic Thoracic Surgeon at the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute, Brian Mitzman, MD says, “Lung cancers are hard to detect because they usually start at just a few millimeters and you can’t see that on a chest x-ray.”

Dr. Mitzman is one of the first to use an ion robotic assisted navigation bronchoscopy to help pinpoint exactly where the cancer is.

“It’s a tiny camera that will go down the airway of the patient and go inside the patient’s lung. It takes the patient’s CT scan and builds us this 3D augmented GPS pathway and tells us exactly where to go so we could get out to where their tiny little two-millimeter nodule is. We inject a little dye into it so that when we go to do the lung resection, it glows for us,” Dr. Mitzman explains.

Rodney had a tiny cancer nodule in the upper part of his right lung — a spot Dr. Mitzman says they would never be able to see on a CT scan.

Dr. Mitzman adds, “Without this technology, we would end up having to take out a fairly large piece of his lung to make sure we got all of the cancer.”

Instead, he removed just a small piece — about the size of quarter. Rodney recovered in days instead of weeks, and he is now cancer-free, just in time for three new family members to arrive this spring.

Many other hospitals are using this technology in biopsies, but the Huntsman Cancer Institute is one of the first in the country to use this technology to mark tumors during surgery.

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