Lifewatch: Lung Cancer

WILMINGTON -- This year alone, 200,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Now, a new technique can provide important answers, sometimes within minutes.

For Will Kirkland, cooking meals for seniors and the homeless is therapy, but a lung problem can make even the simplest activities painful.

"They told me I have a mass in my lung and what it's doing it's fighting against my lung and keep me from breathing in and out like I'm supposed to," said Kirkland.

To find out if his lung problem is cancer, Kirkland is undergoing a new procedure called endobronchial ultrasound.

The flexible bronchoscope with a mini ultrasound probe at the end is placed down the windpipe.  This allows the doctor to see outside the bronchial tube and into the lung area.  Bronchoscopy alone couldn't do that.

A needle passed through the scope takes tissue samples which go straight to the pathologist standing by.  Doctor Mullins says this technique is less invasive and yields quicker results than traditional biopsies.

Kirkland doesn't have cancer.  He has a treatable inflammatory disease called sarquidosis.

Seventy-five percent of the time, lung cancer is diagnosed at it's advanced stages.  This new procedure may not let doctors diagnose lung cancer earlier, but it does allow them to make a diagnosis without surgery.

Reported by Kristy Ondo