Kentucky has the highest death rate for lung cancer in the nation – 50 percent higher than the national average. We also have the highest rate of smoking – 28 percent higher than the national average.
Other causes such as mining and radon in the ground contribute to lung cancer prevalence. When toxins and dust from asbestos exposure or mining are combined with cigarette smoking, the risk is much, much higher.
But occupational problems alone pale in comparison to smoking.
Those age 50-80 with a 20 pack-year* history of smoking are considered at high risk for lung cancer, even if you’ve quit within the last 15 years. A low-dose CT scan is recommended every year for this group. Talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening or call the UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center – Lung Cancer Screening Program at 502-210-4497.
*A pack-year is defined as smoking one pack each day for a year. So, 20 pack-years equals one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years, or it could be two packs of cigarettes per day for 10 years. People who smoke often vary their habits. To help calculate your pack-years, visit smokingpackyears.com.
So how can you avoid being counted among these statistics? You can avoid inhaling mining or asbestos dust, of course, but the option with the greatest impact among Kentuckians is to stop smoking.
A good place to start ending a smoking addiction is with the Great American Smokeout. Each year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in this American Cancer Society-sponsored event. If you’re a smoker, try quitting on this day or use the date to make a plan to quit. If you are not a smoker, encourage a smoker you know to use the date to quit or begin planning to quit. By quitting, smokers take an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.
Early detection is another key to beating the odds with lung cancer. If you are at high risk for lung cancer from smoking or any other risk factor, contact your primary care physician for a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. This scan helps find lung cancer before there are symptoms. It has been proven to save lives by finding lung cancer early.
Kentucky also has the highest proportional rate of small cell lung cancer – the most aggressive and fastest growing lung cancer that we know of. The UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center offers clinical trials with a new drug that is very promising for this particular cancer as well.
The key is acting now to prevent your risk for lung cancer. From diagnosis through treatment and follow-up, the Brown Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Clinic gives you comprehensive lung cancer care every step of the way. If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, ask your doctor to refer you or call 502-562-HOPE (4673).
Ready to quit smoking? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.quitnowkentucky.org.
The M. Krista Loyd Resource Center at Brown Cancer Center also offers “Plan to be tobacco free” courses in conjunction with the Kentucky Cancer Program. Call 502-562-7092 to learn more.