Sylvester’s Lung Screening Program Saves More Lives

3 min read  |  November 14, 2023  | 

When Arnaldo Rojas, a longtime smoker, went for his first lung cancer screening, he didn’t expect bad news.

“I didn’t feel nothing wrong with me at all. I was actually very active,” says Arnaldo.

Close Monitoring and Regular CT Scans Catch Cancers Earlier

Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez, M.D., a thoracic oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, says lung cancer may not present with symptoms until it’s late-stage, which is why those considered high risk like Arnaldo, are encouraged to get their lung cancer screenings every year.

“Patients who are high risk, ages 50 to 80, who have quit smoking in the last 15 years, who are a current smoker, or have a 20-pack year smoking history, should be talking to their doctors about lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT,” Dr. Rodriguez says.

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women. But the screening program at Sylvester is helping to catch cancers earlier in patients and saving more lives.

“Lung cancer, when it’s detected early, the good news is that we can cure it almost 90% of the time.”

– Dr. Rodriguez

Each patient is closely monitored with regular CT scans and guided by a nurse navigator.

“If anything is found, they have someone that’s going to get them where they need to go. Instead of just getting a result and being like, “What do I do with this? What’s my next steps?” Waiting months to see a provider. I can get them in right away and get them the care they need,” says Nicole Gay, nurse navigator for the lung cancer screening program.

“We have a multidisciplinary team that takes care of patients that have gone through their cancer journey, have completed treatment, and we follow them over time,” Dr. Rodriguez explains.

She wants everyone to keep three things in mind when it comes to lung cancer screening.

“Number one, lung cancer screening saves lives. So, if you’re a high-risk smoker, we want you to talk to your doctors about a lung cancer screening test. Number two, this is a journey. So, when patients get in a screening program, we follow them over time. And number three, we have to monitor them. So, it’s important that they get seen by a multidisciplinary team and are being monitored throughout their lives.”

Arnaldo is thankful for the screening program that detected his cancer in 2018 and again this year.

“I trust Sylvester. In my opinion, it’s one of the best places to be,” says Arnaldo.

Estelamari Rodriguez, M.D., is a thoracic oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System. To schedule your screening, call (305) 689-LUNG. Or visit

Video transcript compiled by Janna Ross for ‘Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine,’ a series of health care-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10.  For more stories like this one, visit UHealth’s YouTube channel.

Tags: Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez, focusing on you, lung cancer, lung cancer screening, lung cancer screening guidelines, lung cancer screening program, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, thoracic oncologist

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