INDIANAPOLIS — Ascension St. Vincent is creating a new program that’s getting faster diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer.

“The earlier we diagnose something, the more chances to avoid surgery,” said Dr. Vru Patel, a pulmonary physician at Ascension St. Vincent.

Ascension St. Vincent is using this robotic technology to diagnosis and provide treatment to lung cancer patients.     

Before Ascension’s lung nodule program, patients would undergo routine chest scans and were referred to specialists, which would delay diagnosis. Now, doctors utilize the new Lung Nodule Program to get patients quickly scheduled for robotic bronchoscopy.

“Now we’re able to diagnose cancers basically [in] its infancies that we weren’t able to do before,” Dr. Patel said.

Patient Tony Patterson had never smoked a cigarette in his life and was shocked to learn he was diagnosed with lung cancer. 

“I’m grateful for their ability to do these things,” Patterson said. “It’s come a long way. Several of my friends have died of cancer. Two have had this procedure done and parts of their lungs removed. They do pretty good today so it beats the alternative.”

Patterson underwent the surgery and it was a success. He is now in remission. “I’m truly grateful it’s out of me,” he said. “I met with my oncologist and my scans showed I’m cancer free at this point. Originally had 7 percent chance of [getting] cancer so I should have bought a lottery ticket.”

Dr. Patel has helped more than 250 patients, which makes his one of the highest volume centers for lung nodule treatment in the country. 

“We’re using a robotic device that’s basically a tiny camera scope,” Dr. Patel said. “We’re able to access any point in the lung to do a biopsy to take off pieces of nodules to diagnose patients with lung cancer.”

Franciscan Health Indianapolis unveiled the Auris Monarch platform system 2019 and became the first health system in central Indiana to use robotic technology to diagnose and treat lung cancers. Their sister hospitals have similar technology. Franciscan Health Crown Point uses the Ion system, similar to Ascension.