It was blue skies and smiles all around as the 7th edition of the annual Raymond James softball game, benefiting the Montreal Chest Institute Foundation, took place in Côte-St-Luc on Saturday, August 24th. The MCI Lobes defeated the Raymond James Bulls, all in the name of raising over $25,000 for a worthy cause: Quebec’s first Lung Cancer Screening Program.

The most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada, lung cancer is the leading cause of death among Canadians. In Quebec, more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer. Unfortunately, lung cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, when it has already spread outside of the lungs and when it is too late to be cured. That is why early diagnosis is critical for a lung cancer to be treated and cured.

Last year, in 2018, Dr. Nicole Ezer and her team implemented the first Lung Cancer Screening Program in Quebec at the Montreal Chest Institute (MCI). Located at the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), the MCI is the first hospital in Quebec to offer this ground-breaking initiative which uses special CT scans that provide low doses of radiation to detect lung cancers before they cause symptoms, on high-risk patients.

Screening for lung cancer has been shown to increase survival from lung cancer up to 26% in high-risk men and up to 61% in high-risk women over a 10-year period! This is the most important change in lung cancer management in the last 20 years and has revolutionized care for lung cancer patients.

As it stands, the Lung Cancer Screening Program has already gained traction throughout the province as other hospitals have contacted Dr. Ezer’s team to obtain more information on how it is run. In addition, the program has been collaborating with the Quebec government to ensure their work is made available to other partners across the province.

Since launching the program at the end of 2018, Dr. Nicole Ezer and team have been busy entering into the first stages of implementing new services to be offered within the program.

Currently, Dr. Ezer and team are working on the OPAL smartphone application, which will offer individualized lung cancer risk calculation for each individual who signs up for the lung cancer screening portal. Patients with lung cancer, who have been screened for lung cancer, and individuals whose family members have lung cancer will participate in its development.

The Lung Cancer Screening Program has also established a bio-bank of blood samples from interested patients to use in future studies to identify lung cancer within the blood stream and potentially avoid the need for a biopsy. The option for bio-banking became available to patients in September 2019.