Hackensack University Medical Center Survivorship Programs Support Patients After Lung Surgery

Long-term follow-up initiatives help patients stay on top of screenings

Lung Cancer Survivorship

For approximately 85 percent of patients diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, surgery provides a successful cure. To ensure long-term positive outcomes, Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center, a national leader in lung cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment, applies the latest surgical technologies and prioritizes survivorship programs as a critical component of long-term follow-up care.

Thoracic surgeons at Hackensack University Medical Center, which is ranked as a High-Performing Hospital for Lung Cancer Surgery by U.S. News & World Report, use advanced techniques to remove lung cancer, including Ion robotic technology and Firefly near-infrared imaging.

Nabil P. Rizk, M.D., Division Chief, Thoracic Surgery, Hackensack University Medical Center and co-director of Thoracic Oncology, John Theurer Cancer Center, and his team use the Ion robotic system to perform minimally invasive lung procedures.

Dr. Rizk uses Firefly near-infrared imaging during lung cancer surgeries to confirm the location of the lesion before performing a segmentectomy to remove part of the lung. In some cases, this technology allows surgeons to perform segmentectomies instead of complete lobectomies.

“During surgery, we often can’t see or feel a lesion on the surface of the lung,” said Dr. Rizk. “With Firefly, we can tell where the lesion is because it shows up as bright green, and we can make sure no part of it is left behind while minimizing the amount of healthy tissue that is removed.”

And when healthy tissue is preserved, patients are less likely to notice a decrease in lung capacity—which can help them maintain their usual activity levels and quality of life.

As a large percentage of patients experience a complete cure after lung cancer surgery, survivorship programs serve an increasingly important role, helping patients stay on track with their recovery and long-term screening.

“Survivorship care begins with our formal Survivorship Program, which follows patients for the first year after surgery,” said Dr. Rizk. “Our nurse practitioners get to know our patients during office visits and provide expansive care that includes lung cancer follow-up, as well as other aspects of health maintenance, such as discussions about quality of life, overall well-being, and screening for other cancers.”

For patients who continue to smoke after lung cancer surgery, smoking cessation is discussed at each visit.

“We will continue to follow up with patients after surgery on their smoking status and connect them with resources and programs designed to help them quit,” said Dr. Rizk.

After the second year, patients will undergo annual imaging tests. With each clear scan, the likelihood that they will achieve a complete cure—defined as remaining cancer-free for five years after surgery—increases.

However, even after five years, it is possible that a new cancer could arise.

“Beyond five years, we continue to do annual imaging tests,” said Dr. Rizk. “That’s because patients who have had lung cancer once have a 2 to 3 percent annual cumulative risk of developing a second cancer later in life, and ongoing screening enables us to catch new cases as early as possible.”

Learn more about innovative pulmonology and thoracic surgery care at Hackensack University Medical Center.

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