When Dr. Luke Yuhico entered the medical profession more than a decade ago, the leading cause of death in cancer patients was lung cancer. It still is – but Dr. Yuhico hopes the advent of the Robotic Bronchoscopy will continue to save the lives of lung cancer patients at HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital.
Many of those cases, had they been caught and treated early, would have saved the lives of the patients who developed the disease.
Many times, Dr. Yuhico and his colleagues, who specialize in Pulmonology, the study of the lungs, did not have the technology to see the tiny cancer cells, while the patients still had time for surgery. By the time a doctor would find cancer, it was often too late for the patient.
Add in the fact that diagnosing lung cancer with a traditional bronchoscopy in the first place could take up to eight weeks the patients doesn’t really have, and it was no wonder lung cancer proved so deadly.
Only 33.5% of patients who do not catch their lung cancer early are alive five years after their diagnosis. That number increases if the cancer is diagnosed in early stages to 61.2%.
Thanks to a robotic bronchoscopy device employed starting two years ago at the hospital, Dr. Yuhico and his colleagues at HCA Fort Walton-Destin can catch cancers far earlier than previously – and in a same-day outpatient procedure, instead of two months.
In less than two years, the hospital has used the machine more than three hundred times to inspect possible cancers, called nodules, and either get people on a course of treatment – or rule it out.
Turns out – Okaloosa County, in particular, has all of the risk factors for lung cancer – which kills more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.
“If you put age, smoking history, asbestos and Agent Orange together, you now have the four primary risk demographics for lung cancer – you have them all in our location.”
Dr. Yuhico holds the title for the most bronchoscopies performed in the State of Florida – in his estimates; he has averaged two or three per week over the last two years.
All in the hopes he can bring down the mortality rate from lung cancer in a hotspot for the disease.