State officials: Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in the nation

Kentucky

FILE – This 1964 photo made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a lung tissue specimen from a patient with adenocarcinoma of the lung. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, researchers reported another record one-year decline in the U.S. cancer death rate, a drop they continue to attribute to success against lung cancer. (Dr. Ellis/Emory University, Department of Pathology/CDC via AP)

FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – State leaders in Kentucky have proclaimed November as Lung Cancer Awareness Month in the Bluegrass State, coinciding with the national Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he encourages Kentuckians to take time to learn more about the disease, risk factors and how to get screened for it.

“Kentuckians suffer from lung cancer at a much higher rate than the rest of the country,” said Beshear. “We are seeing improvements in screening and early detection, but there is still much work to be done to educate our people about prevention and to encourage them to get help once they receive a diagnosis.”

According to the governor’s office, the Bluegrass State has the highest lung cancer rate in the nation. Officials say more than 89 out of every 100,000 people in the state is diagnosed, and the state’s death rate from the disease is 50% higher than the national average.

Dr. Timothy Mullett, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Kentucky, accepted the governor’s proclamation on Lung cancer Awareness Month on behalf of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative. The organization is dedicated to promoting education and awareness about lung cancer and helping those diagnosed with the disease, according to the LEADS website. 

“Kentucky is home to some of the worst cancer rates in the country, and lung cancer is at the top of that list. The good news is that our methods for lung cancer screening, treatment and prevention have significantly improved over the years, and because of our collaborative work in early detection in lung cancer, we are seeing decreases in late-stage lung cancer that we have not seen before,” Mullett said. “Our work is drawing the attention of national organizations like the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the American Cancer Society to develop solutions that can be applied across the nation. I’m proud to be here today alongside so many other organizations and individuals who are pushing for more research and resources to help reduce the impact of this disease in the commonwealth.”

Kentucky has the second-highest rate of lung cancer screening in the nation, however, experts say nearly 11% of Kentuckians who are diagnosed do not receive treatment, a rate significantly higher than the national average.

Officials urged Kentuckians who are or were smokers to get screened for lung cancer. They say lung cancer screening is also recommended for adults who have may have no symptoms, but are at a higher risk for developing the disease due to their smoking history and age. This includes people who meet all of the following criteria:

  • Those who are 50-80 years of age.
  • Those who averaged one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.
  • Those who currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years.

Health experts say more treatment options are available and survival chances are higher if the cancer is detected early.

Scott Kindred, lung cancer survivor and founder of STAGES, was also in Frankfort for the governor’s proclamation. He says his own journey dealing with the disease has helped him become an advocate to help others dealing with lung cancer.

“It’s so important that patients and survivors with lung cancer can get information so they can understand about the disease and its treatment and to connect with other survivors to know they are not alone,” Kindred said

Kentuckians without access to the necessary health care for lung cancer screening opportunities or treatment can seek help and access by enrolling for health care coverage at kynect.ky.gov. Anyone who needs help signing up can also call helplines for kynect benefits 1.855.306.8959, kynect health coverage 1.855.459.6328.

Anyone who wants to learn more information about lung cancer can visit the American Lung Association’s State of Lung Cancer 2021 report.

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