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New lung cancer diagnosis robot could make Tampa medical destination for patients

Lung cancer kills more people in Florida than any other kind of cancer.

TAMPA, Fla. — Cancer touches so many of our lives. In Florida, lung cancer kills more people than any other kind.

According to the American Cancer Society, this year alone, nearly 11,000 people have died from lung cancer in Florida. That's about the same number of colorectal, pancreatic and female breast cancer deaths added together. There's a new technology in Tampa that could help reduce that number.

The Monarch, a robotic bronchoscopy machine, is now at St. Joseph's Hospital. It will help doctors diagnose patients much earlier than they were previously able to because they can get direct visual access to biopsy affected areas inside the lungs.

Pulmonologist Dr. Michael Alvarez has already been able to use the new robotic technology to diagnose a patient, saving her the stress and cost of multiple diagnostic appointments.

"Now I'm confident going into a procedure. One of the worst things I can say to a patient is 'I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get a diagnosis' so having this technology really reassures the patient and the staff and myself that I'm able to provide a confident diagnosis," Dr. Alvarez said.

Using a robotic camera, doctors can navigate into the lungs in a more precise, less invasive way. The reason why lung cancer is so deadly is that it's often caught in its late stages when treatment is less likely to succeed. 

Having this tool in Tampa Bay will make a difference for patients. "This will change the landscape of lung cancer treatment in the future," said Dr. Alvarez.

He believes that this technology could bring more patients to Tampa Bay for early diagnosis.

If you're a smoker, you should get yearly chest exams. If you're a nonsmoker, symptoms are harder to recognize early on. If you experience prolonged coughing, trouble swallowing, swelling in the face or neck, chest pain or discomfort, coughing up blood, wheezing or recurrent lung infections talk to your doctor.