No one wants to talk about cancer, especially lung cancer. The statistics are staggering. Lung cancer claims more lives than prostate, colon and breast cancer combined. Historically, most lung cancer cases have been diagnosed in later stages (III and IV), which means the cancer has moved to other parts of the body.
Of those diagnosed in a later stage, 50 percent have only a one-year survival rate, and a mere 15 percent will live as long as five years after diagnosis.
Smoking, radon exposure and secondhand smoke are the major culprits. The only way to improve these sobering statistics is to eliminate the culprits, detect cancer early and raise awareness.
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to eliminate smoking and secondhand exposure risks. Many hospitals and local health departments are offering free smoking cessation classes, or you can call Quit Now Kentucky at 1-800-784-8669. Medication and replacement products can be used to reduce and eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Kentucky has high indoor levels of this odorless, tasteless gas that permeates our homes by rising from the ground. Radon does not discriminate. It doesn't care if you have a basement, a crawl space or a slab, or if your home is old or new.
The good news is you can receive a free — or nearly free — and incredibly simple radon test kit from your local health department. All you do is hang the kit for three to seven days and return it in the mail using the postage paid envelope provided. If the report you receive is positive, contact your health department to learn how to fix the problem.
Momentum is shifting toward early detection of lung cancer. A simple low-dose screening CT scan, which doesn't require an IV and takes only about 15 minutes, can detect lung cancer at an earlier stage than an X-ray. Medicare, Medicaid and most commercial insurance plans cover this scan at 100 percent if you meet the criteria.
Help change the statistics. Please join me at Shine a Light on Lung Cancer from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10 in the Grand Ballroom of The Signature Club of Lansdowne, 3256 Lansdowne Drive, Lexington. This free event — donations are appreciated — is open to survivors, health care professionals and anyone who has been touched by lung cancer. To RSVP or find out more, call (859) 260-3198.