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Butler Health System steps up fight against lung disease

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 9:28 p.m.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
From left to right M.D. Dr. George Davliakos, Rrt Jeff Dunlap, and Rrt Chris Curry pose for a photo with part of a new machine called the Super Dimension. The 'Super D' is used for lung guidance and allows them to better screen for lung cancer.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Respiratory therapy assistant Jeff Dunlap (left), senior respiratory therapist Chris Curry and Dr. George Davliakos demonstrate part of a new machine called the Super Dimension. The “Super D” allows medical professionals to better screen for lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer in Butler County, claiming 50.9 lives from 2006 to 2010 for every 100,000 people, according to numbers from the Butler Health System.

That's higher than the 47.6 per 100,000 rate reported nationwide by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Lung is the No. 1 cancer death for both men and women,” said Dr. George Davliakos, the system's co-director of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery.

The lung cancer death rates were enough to spark development of a multi-disciplinary lung center program at the health system, said Jana Panther, director of marketing and community relations.

Surgeons, pulmonologists, radiologists and oncologists are providing more coordinated and streamlined care for lung cancer patients, Davliakos said. He expects the program to be fully developed in about three months.

The center is utilizing new lung exploration equipment called the Super Dimension. The hospital received the equipment in June, and it has been used on six patients, Davliakos said.

“It has been very helpful and made a difference in the treatment in all patients we used it on,” he said.

The Super Dimension uses electromagnetic-guided imaging to provide doctors with a “road map” of the lungs that guides them to the abnormality, Davliakos said.

This helps doctors improve biopsies, diagnosis and treatment, he said.

Butler Health System began other cancer initiatives this year. Officials announced a joint venture with UPMC CancerCenter in April, which brought new radiation oncology and medical oncology services to Butler to treat all types of cancer. Radiation oncologists Dr. Victor Onufrey and Dr. Hung-Chi Ho from Butler Radiation Oncology Associates joined the Butler Health System in April, and Dr. Rushir Chokski, an oncologist and hematologist from UPMC, joined the hospital this month, Panther said.

“It's all revolved around the community and the patients and what's in the best interests for them,” Panther said. “It makes a very hard illness easier.”

The association with UPMC brings treatment options to Butler Memorial. Clinical pathways and clinical trials from UPMC will be made available, something Butler patients have had to travel to Pittsburgh to participate, Panther said.

“If we can be better in providing some of the stuff close to home, we're all in,” she said.

Butler County's deaths from lung cancer are more than double that of breast and prostate cancer deaths, according to the Butler Memorial Hospital Community Health Needs Assessment, a report that examines health needs to guide resource and service allocation.

Butler Health System began a comprehensive cancer program in 2006, at a time when the community assessment found 191.3 cancer deaths per 100,000 people. From 2006 to 2010, the cancer deaths dropped to 176.8 per 100,000. A goal set by the Department of Health and Human Services sets a death rate of 160.6 per 100,000 people by 2020, Panther said.

Nationwide, the cancer death rate in 2010 was 172.8 per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pennsylvania topped that national rate in 2010 with 179.4 deaths per 100,000, according to the state Department of Health.

Peggy Wright, radiology supervisor at Butler Health System, said the hospital works closely with the American Cancer Society to provide patients with transportation to treatments and other resources.

The American Cancer Society also provides group support services in Butler, such as the Look Good, Feel Better program, for women and men undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment that teaches them how to improve their appearance and self-image.

Angela Snow, 39, of Petrolia said the program helped her after she was diagnosed with gastric cancer in December 2012. She participated in it in January during her first round of chemotherapy.

“They really try to teach inner beauty and how you perceive yourself and that even though you're going to look different, you're still beautiful,” she said.

Wright also helped create a cancer resource booklet recently that officials have begun to distribute to patients. The booklets contain information on how to alleviate symptoms and anxiety, questions to ask surgeons, how to set up appointments and provides contact information for specific cancer resource networks, she said.

“They get the news and don't know what to do, don't know where to go, what questions to ask,” she said. “They're shocked and stunned, and this booklet kind of takes them through the whole gamut.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or

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