FALLS CITY – Lung cancer is the number one killer of American cancer patients and its toll on Richardson County is documented in health data shared by the University of Washington, but Community Medical Center in Falls City is taking the lead to save lives.

The National Cancer Society presented an award to the hospital last week for screening more than 28 percent of people eligible for cancer screening, which is higher than the national average of 18 percent.


Andy Link of Cancer Centers of Nebraska: “We are always wanting to be part of a celebration or opportunity in which we can recognize a  health system for doing their part to end cancer.”

Dr. Neville Irani, founder of the Health Care Quality Improvement Platform, said Falls City has quadrupled its lung cancer screenings since 2021 to reach levels that are above state averages and rare among critical access hospitals.


Irani: “It all boils down to teamwork and leadership and collaboration. That’s the key in every organization where we have seen this be successful. There is a close partnership between the clinical side and the imaging side of the facility, with sponsorship by the leadership. What that means basically is removing barriers, providing resources and for this facility in particular they made it a key quality measure at their board level.”

Dr. Irani said Falls City has been a pioneer in using the low dose CT scan for cancer.

“They have been leaders in this field. They’ve helped mentor other critical access hospitals in the region, really inspired them with their advice and success.”

Hospital Director Ryan Larsen accepted the award with a success story about a long-time smoker, mother and grandmother who received a cancer diagnosis because of the screening.



Larsen: “She is so happy that she did this. She is in the life of her family and that’s why we’re doing this. Lung cancer is so horrible and this is something we can do to help beat it.”

Link said implementation of the lung cancer screening program eases worry and  increases the chances of finding cancer when it’s treatable.

Link: “People will have the opportunity to have peace of mind. Two, if there is something found, God forbid, that they will be able to start that treatment much sooner than they would’ve done if something else started showing up, some of the signs and symptoms.”

Nationally, 80 percent of high-risk people are not screened.