CHI Memorial's new mobile lung screening helps detect cancer

CHI Memorial's new mobile lung screening helps detect cancer

January 19th, 2018 by Elizabeth Fite in Local Regional News

Mobile CT specifications

› Height: 12 feet 9 inches

› Length: 38 feet

› Standard width: 8 feet 6 inches

› Expanded width: 12 feet 5 inches

› Weight: 30,000+ pounds

Businesses or event organizers can schedule a mobile lung CT visit by calling 423-495-2540.

CHI Memorial is rolling out its new "Breathe Easy" mobile health coach to better detect lung cancer early in hard-to-reach, high-risk populations.

Lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined, and Tennessee ranks fourth in the country for lung cancer incidence.

While there's several factors that contribute to lung cancer's high mortality rate, a major component is that the disease often goes undetected until later stages, when it's much harder to treat, said Dr. Carlos Baleeiro, medical director of pulmonary services at CHI Memorial.

But recent studies show using low-dose computed tomography, or CT, machines to screen for early signs reduces lung cancer mortality by 20 percent. The new mobile coach is now taking that technology to people who may not otherwise have access to CT.

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"There hasn't been a screening for lung cancer, like mammography," Baleeiro said. "What the mobile coach allows us to do is identify patients with low stage lung cancer – if we do find something, we have the ability to intervene early and make a big difference."

Dr. Rob Headrick, chief of thoracic surgery at CHI Memorial, said he's watched Chattanooga grow from a place that Walter Cronkite deemed "the dirtiest place in the country" to a revitalized, thriving city. Yet, the city's poor lung cancer statistics are a tragic reminder of the 1950s and '60s industrial era pollution.

"This is the end of a long process," Headrick said. "My vision is simply in 10 years that lung cancer's not a big deal. If you find it early, it's really not a big deal."

In most cases, private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid will cover lung cancer screening for high-risk individuals, such as older adults with a history of smoking. Others may be eligible for subsidies that reduce screening costs.

Baleeiro said the mobile coach also provides an opportunity to talk about healthier lifestyle choices and smoking cessation.

The mobile lung coach is the first of its kind in the region and will serve 11 counties in Tennessee, eight in North Georgia and two counties in Alabama, with its first stops on Monday, Jan. 22, at physicians' offices in Spring City and Dayton.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.