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Kentucky ranks high nationally in lung cancer screenings

University of Kentucky Healthcare

Kentucky is a state which has ranked at or near the top when it comes to lung cancer. A cardiothoracic surgeon with a quarter-century experience in Lexington said much progress has been made in earlier detection and curative care.

Dr. Tim Mullett, medical director of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Affiliate and Research Network, noted the story with lung cancer used to be late diagnosis and low survival rate. He added that scenario is changing with effective early detection mechanisms.

“In fact, Kentucky is a leader in the country for lung cancer screening in terms of hitting our eligible population. Those people that should be screened we’re number two in the country in screening rates,” said Mullett.

Mullett said it’s about one-in-five patients with still room for improvement. The eligibility for screening includes being between 50 and 80, averaging one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years, and currently smoking or have quit in the last 15 years.

Dr. Mullett said affiliations, whether within a family or circle of friends, remain a key factor when it comes to smoking. He said some 22% of Kentuckians smoke, compared to a national average of about 16%. “But, if you’re in a culture where smoking is so prevalent, then it’s easy to understand how it can become part of your daily life. And once it does, it’s an addiction that’s hard to quit,” said Mullett.

In addition to advances in lung cancer screening and treatment, Mullett said medications can also be used to help smokers quit. The lung specialist noted 80% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer have a history of smoking. But, Mullett added, exposure to radon is also a factor, but there’s not enough indoor testing to fully evaluate the risk.

Likewise, the UK Markey Cancer Center official said there's not yet enough data to determine how much lung injury results from COVID.

November has been declared lung cancer awareness month.

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