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Educating Lung Patients using 3D Printing Technology

Jack and Mallory Kaemmer with their 3D Printer.

The lung nodule model created by the Kaemmer’s.

Mallory Kaemmer, a supervisor in St. Luke’s Nassif Radiation Center, along with her husband Jack Kaemmer have helped create a method to ease patient concerns when doing lung cancer screenings. In February 2022, the Kaemmer’s turned to using 3-D models to help better educate patients.

“We use the model as part of our lung screening program, pulmonary lung clinics, and radiation center to describe the size and shape of lung nodules. We use the size reference plate for lung screening patients, this model helps educate patients when there is a lung nodule seen on the exam, size and appearance will help determine next steps.”

Knowing patients feel a range of emotions after finding out they have a nodule, Mallory wanted to find a way to educate patients and calm their fears.

“After the imaging is complete, a radiologist reviews images and a report is created. The patient has access to this report and if there are lung nodules, this model will help provide clarity to the patient regarding details of their nodule.”

“We noted that several patients were having anxiety related to their screening exam and after doing some research had found that there were some centers creating models to help assistant with patient education,” Mallory Kaemmer said. “Often, there is distress, fear and confusion following chest imaging. We found this tool can help calm anxiety and allow patients to focus more on their path forward, rather than just a potential diagnosis.”

Early Detection is the Best Prevention

This project is very close to the Kaemmer’s hearts, having people close to them go through their own lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“The year before developing this lung nodule model my uncle passed away from lung cancer. From diagnosis to being admitted to hospice care was a total of four months. It showed me how fast lung cancer can grow and spread and the anxiety it poses. I felt compelled to educate our community and spread the word about early detection.”

Early detection is the most important factor in surviving lung cancer. Most early-stage lung cancers have no symptoms. It is extremely important to have a lung screening to detect it as early as possible.

“Both my aunt and uncle passed away from stage four lung cancer, both undiagnosed until it became stage four. The effects of early-stage lung cancer are manageable, this makes me extremely passionate about lung screening and early detection.”

If you or someone you know are between the ages of 50 and 77, smoked a pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years, are a current smoker or have quit in the past 15 years you may be eligible for a Lung Check.

Podcast Episode: Lung Cancer Screening


The Design Process

The lung nodule model was designed using CAD software and then created on a custom-built 3D printer. The Kaemmer’s made several prototypes, which were reviewed and approved by a pulmonologist and patient care educators.

“We modeled it over the course of a couple weeks, typically nights and weekends. The design was the most time consuming. Once the design was finalized, printing an individual model only takes a few hours.”

Helping Patients to Visualize and Understand Their Nodules

Mallory has found this to be very helpful for patients.

“It is so gratifying to know that we are providing patients for both their physical and emotional well-being. We want them to be comfortable with the procedure and understand the potential findings. This model has given us the ability to do that.”

The pulmonologists at UnityPoint Clinic Multi-Specialty have found it very useful as well.

“This model has been tremendous in helping patients to visualize and understand the size and shape of their lung nodule,” said Dr. Vijaya Gogineni. “I use it before every biopsy to show the patient the size of the area we are looking at. Sometimes it helps make a decision on whether or not a biopsy or monitoring the area is appropriate. When I show the patient this visual model, everything makes more sense.”

If you or someone you know qualifies for a Lung Check Screening, talk to your primary care provider today. To learn more about lung cancer screening, visit


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