Screening program identifying and treating more lung cancer cases


World Lung Cancer Day is observed every year on August 1 to raise awareness of lung cancer issues and magnify the need for more lung cancer research funding

Because most lung cancer cases are diagnosed at later stages—when the cancer has already spread to other organs and treatment options are less likely to cure the disease—more Americans die of lung cancer than any other type of cancer.

One Valley family’s generous gift is changing this sobering statistic. Rick and Shelley Kuhle donated $1 million to the Banner Health Foundation four years ago and since then, their investment has transformed Banner MD Anderson’s Lung Cancer program by expanding access to screening and educating the community about the potentially life-saving importance of early detection.

Through the Kuhle Family Lung Cancer Screening & Early Detection Program established in 2019, more than 5,500 patients have been screened for lung cancer; 2022 alone saw a four-fold increase over 2019 in the number of screenings. A total of 86 lung cancer cases have been diagnosed, and another 850 patients were identified with lung nodules with a grade of Lung RADs 3 (likely benign, with follow-up required) or Lung RADs 4 (suspicious or very suspicious). Representing our highest-risk patients, all RADs 3 and RADs 4 cases are now being presented at the system-wide tumor board, a group of experts including thoracic radiologists, interventional pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, nurse specialists, patient navigators and others. The board meets regularly to discuss cases and share knowledge to determine the best possible treatment plan for individual patients.

Banner MD Anderson has accredited and operationalized 17 lung cancer screening sites, including six Banner MD Anderson affiliated hospital sites, thanks to the Kuhle family’s investment. As of 2022, a total of 11 Banner imaging outpatient sites have been added, vastly increasing this program’s reach and lowering patient and health system costs.

The Kuhle family’s generous gift
created a Lung Cancer Screening &
Early Detection Program at Banner
MD Anderson Cancer Center.

In April 2022, Banner MD Anderson’s Gilbert campus acquired a Cios Spin device, a mobile C-Arm that provides intraprocedural 3D imaging. This machine allows pulmonologists to biopsy lung lesions when they are less than 1-2 cm in size or in difficult locations, and potentially catch lung cancers when they are stage I and have a >85% five-year survival rate. The first of its kind available in the East Valley, the Cios Spin device eliminates the need for patients to travel for this level of early lung cancer detection.

The Kuhle family’s gift also supports lung cancer research and community outreach to educate health care providers and community health organizations about the importance of early lung cancer screening and the resources available. Post-pandemic, the team has increased direct patient outreach through health fairs, presentations at senior centers, and educational materials located in Banner Health Centers.

The Kuhle family felt it vitally important that their gift support tobacco and vaping education for young people to prevent future cases of lung cancer and disease. The community outreach team is working with local school districts to begin educational efforts and provide resources to middle school and high school students—the age group where this type of education is proven to have the greatest impact. Funding will support teachers in becoming certified Vaping Prevention Specialists through the American Lung Association and provide proven vaping education programs and materials in schools.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Kuhle family for their generous gift that is making our vision for an early lung cancer detection program a reality here in Arizona. On behalf of everyone at Banner MD Anderson, thank you,” says Amanda Dean Martin, DNP, Chief of Advanced Practice and Clinical Integration at Banner MD Anderson.

To support Banner MD Anderson’s cancer programs, visit the link below.