A new innovation that holds promise to fight lung cancer – the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide – is now in use at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The robotic technology enables earlier and more accurate diagnosis of small and hard-to-reach nodules deep in the lung. This is especially important because lung cancer typically has no symptoms in its early stages, and often isn’t found until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

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Early stage diagnosis is challenging partly due to the location and size of nodules, as well as technology limitations. Now physicians are using the tech to better view the inside of the lungs and smaller airways, to reach smaller nodules and obtain a tissue sample for biopsy. This provides greater precision and control, along with 3D vision that helps doctors reach areas of the lungs not usually accessible.

“We believe this will help our medical experts diagnose and treat lung cancer earlier, offering a more hopeful future for our patients,” said Dr. Archan Shah, interventional pulmonologist at Banner MD Anderson.

A variety of diagnostic options are available for lung cancer, but all have limitations in accuracy, safety, or invasiveness. These limitations can lead to false positives, false negatives, or side effects such as pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and hemorrhage, which may increase health care costs and extend hospital stays.

When a spot on the lung is found through traditional diagnostic imaging, it’s important to determine what it is. The new technology, called the “Monarch platform,” allows physicians to navigate the flexible robotic endoscope to the periphery of the lung with improved reach, vision and control. Physicians see traditional endoscopic views into the lung, as well as computer-assisted navigation based on 3D models of the patient’s own lung anatomy. The minimally invasive procedure is performed through the mouth.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer, and makes up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center delivers cancer care to patients through the partnership of Banner Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Banner MD Anderson offers focused disease-specific expertise in the medical, radiation and surgical management of the cancer patient; an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to patient care; access to clinical trials and new investigative therapies; state-of-the-art technology for the diagnosis, staging and treatment of all types of cancer; oncology expertise in supportive care services. For more information, visit www.BannerMDAnderson.com.