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Lung Cancer Costing KY in Many Ways

Quit smoking and be screened for lung cancer are two messages being sounded during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Credit Greg Stotelmyer
Quit smoking and be screened for lung cancer are two messages being sounded during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Credit Greg Stotelmyer
November 12, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and anyone can get lung cancer, even people who have never smoked.

But tobacco-growing Kentucky has among the highest percentage of smokers in the country, as well as the highest rate of lung cancer cases and deaths.

"Well, to be very blunt, if you've ever seen someone you love struggling with lung cancer, it's a horrible way to die," says Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of both women and men, taking the lives of almost twice as many women as any other cancer.

According to the American Lung Association, diagnoses have nearly doubled among women in the past 37 years, yet only 1 percent of women cite lung cancer as a top-of-mind concern.

Dr. Elizabeth Gore, a radiation oncologist, maintains people are largely unaware of how deadly the disease can be.

"There's so much interest and publicity surrounding the concerns regarding breast cancer and I think it really overshadows which is the more concerning statistic: that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women," she states.

Gore says a screening is a potential lifesaver, because it can detect lung cancer before there are symptoms, when it is easier to treat.

Health experts say preventing tobacco use continues to be the biggest need.

Zepeda says tobacco has inflicted huge health, emotional and economic costs on Kentucky, where more than one out of every four people still smokes.

"The health issues: the pain, the suffering, are one dimension of it,” she says. “Another dimension of it is the lost productivity. It's the costs to the state of Kentucky for Medicaid treatment of people who are dealing with the effects of having gotten addicted to tobacco when they were very young. "

To help raise awareness about lung cancer, the American Lung Association has launched Lung Force to help women in the fight against the disease.


Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY