New technology at South Shore helps diagnose cancer earlier

Hospital is first on Long Island with technology


Most people are not thankful that they had pneumonia. Frank Corrigan of Huntington, however, said he is, after a bout of pneumonia in 2018 put him in the hospital and ensured his doctors routinely checked his lungs during regular visits.

During his next physical following the pneumonia, a spot was found on his upper right lung and doctors monitored it every year and sent him to get a CT scan. Corrigan’s family doctor recommended he see a lung surgeon and he was connected with Dr. Vijay Singh.

Dr. Singh, a thoracic surgeon at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, had recently pushed South Shore to bring in a new ion technology that shortens the time from biopsy to diagnosis.

“The ion technology in which we’re the first in Long Island to have is a method of how you can streamline someone to actually get a lung biopsy through a bronchoscope, which is a camera that goes through the airway, and actually it helps us navigate all the way to any part of the lung with this new technology,” Dr. Singh said. “Not only can we diagnose lung cancer with the lesion, but we also can sample lymph nodes which are adjacent to the lung, and it allows us to also stage someone in one setting with one anesthetic event. So, it’s helping us to diagnose cancer early and also stage someone appropriately to determine whether a surgery versus chemotherapy or radiation is the optimal way to go.”

Dr. Singh explained that the way lung nodules used to be found, the patient would be sent to a radiologist who would then perform a biopsy with CT scan guidance.

“There are no incisions,” Dr. Singh said of the ion technology. “It’s done under general anesthesia. We use a camera that goes through the airway. And with the special technology, we’re able to navigate through all the different bronchi and alveoli and actually get to any part of the lung without invading the actual architecture.”

The ion technology is revolutionary because of how much it cuts down the time from identifying a lesion to getting treatment.

“Inherently, with lung cancer in general, the way things run is that we’re able to try and get to a lesion much quicker than normal,” Dr. Singh said. “Time of diagnosis nationally is anywhere from zero to 120 days from the actual suspicion on a CT scan.”

Dr. Singh explained that when internal medicine doctors spot a suspicious lung nodule, they’ll send the patient to a pulmonologist, who will eventually send the patient to a radiologist who does the biopsy. After the information comes back to the radiologist, it goes to a pulmonologist and maybe to a thoracic surgeon or surgical oncologist.

“That inherently has four or five different physicians involved and a lot of time can go anywhere from zero to three months or four months, so what we’re trying to do with this new technology, we’re trying to cut out all the middlemen, and the internal medicine physician will send it directly to us, the procedurist, or the surgeon, and we can actually cut down that time from zero to 180 to now actually staging someone from zero to 14 to 21 days,” Dr. Singh said.

Dr. Singh noted that he does a lot of robotic surgery, so he was privy to the new technology coming from the field. He went out to the headquarters of Intuitive in Sunnyvale, Calif., to learn more about the robotic bronchoscopy and practice on it. Currently, Dr. Singh is the sole person performing surgeries with the ion technology, but he said that South Shore will potentially have other people who are appropriately trained in the future. 

Corrigan, the patient who went through the procedure to remove a nodule, was amazed at the technology. His surgery was back in February, and he said he went home the next day after surgery and only took over-the-counter medication for the pain. He is now back to his normal routine and is thankful the lesion was identified and removed.

“This is modern medicine,” Corrigan said of the new technology. “It’s a million years away from 1950s medicine. It’s absolutely amazing.”


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