Kentucky – Home of Horses, Bourbon and Lung Cancer

Kentucky is known for many things – beautiful countryside, horse racing, bourbon and unfortunately, lung cancer. Compared to other states, Kentucky has one of the worst ranks for both new cases and survival rate. The good news is that Kentucky is now among the highest ranked states in the number of lung cancer screenings being provided to at-risk people.

Med Center Health and other leading healthcare systems who are members of the Kentucky Health Collaborative have made a concerted effort to increase lung cancer screenings across the state. With no symptoms until the advanced stage‚ lung cancer is most treatable when caught in the early stages.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force expanded its recommendations for lung cancer screening in 2021. These new recommendations include a larger age range of 50-80 years and an increased number of both former and current smokers, including those who quit within the past 15 years. Due to the expanded criteria, the number of women and Black Americans who are considered at risk also increased. Learn more at MedCenterHealth.org/Lung.

While smoking is considered the leading cause of lung cancer, we have another enemy here in Kentucky – radon. Radon is an odorless, invisible and radioactive gas that is produced naturally from rocks, soil and water. According to the University of Kentucky Geological Survey, Warren County and Bowling Green sit on some of the highest radon-producing rock formations in the state. You don’t have to be a scientist to know radon exposure combined with tobacco smoke is very unsafe. People exposed to both are 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer.

“The high rate of lung cancer in Kentucky is an unfortunate problem to have,” says Jamie Jarboe, M.D., medical oncologist with Med Center Health Hematology & Oncology, “but we continue to work hard to tackle the issue from prevention to early detection and treatment.”

What can you do?

If you smoke, quit. That can be easier said than done, so seek out all the support you can get. Med Center Health’s Health & Wellness Center offers one-to-one education sessions with a certified treatment specialist to help you quit for good. To learn more, call 270-745-1503.

If you are a smoker, or have quit in the last 15 years, ask your doctor if you qualify for a no-cost low-dose lung cancer screening. This is a non-invasive CT scan that only takes a few minutes. Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging (a department of The Medical Center at Bowling Green) and The Medical Centers at Scottsville, Franklin, Albany and Caverna are all certified low-dose lung cancer screening centers. Learn more at MedCenterHealth.org/lung.

When it comes to radon, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount in your home. First, get a test kit to check the level in your home. The Kentucky Radon Program provides radon test kits free of charge to residents. Visit https://states.aelabs.com/#/ky to learn more. Low-cost kits are also available by mail order or in stores. Make sure the kit is EPA-approved.

If the level of radon in your home is high, the best approach is to hire a certified radon mitigation technician. The important thing is to increase ventilation in your home and seal any areas that might be allowing radon to seep in, such as in the basement.

Clinical trials to fight cancer available in Bowling Green

As a member of the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network and the UK Markey Cancer Center Research Network, The Medical Center at Bowling Green offers the most advanced cancer care available in the region. In December 2022, the first clinical trial study for Med Center Health cancer patients was approved by UK Markey Cancer Center.

The trial involves precision medicine personalized for lung cancer patients based on cancer-causing mutations found in the blood or tumor. Patients can receive targeted therapy specific to their mutation. The goal is to improve length and quality of life for many of our lung cancer patients while reducing harmful side effects that can be caused by normal chemotherapy.