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Lung Cancer Challenge

by From Staff Reports | November 21, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

November often feels like a busy month with the focus on upcoming holidays, travel and seasonal cheer, but it is also a month of reflection and thoughtful planning at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month -- prime time to raise awareness about the No. 1 cancer killer in Arkansas.

We lose more Arkansans every year to lung cancer than next three most common cancers combined -- breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer. Arkansas consistently ranks as one of the top two to three states in the nation for new lung cancer cases. We also have one of the lowest survival rates for lung cancer. Only about 21% of Arkansans diagnosed with the diseases survive -- a number that is completely changeable.

Lung cancer outcomes have been so challenging in the past due to a combination of a deadly disease, which is often not caught early enough, with historically difficult treatment options. However, with any big problem there is also an enormous opportunity to make a change. We can save lives and change this landscape.

We can do more to prevent lung cancer, detect it earlier and support those who have it with the best treatments possible. Here's how:

Overcome Fear. We know that smokers who are most at risk for lung cancer feel a certain fear or stigma from using tobacco. Don't let fear hold you back. Quite often, lung cancer has excellent survival when caught early. Treatment has come a long way with minimally invasive surgery, pinpoint accuracy of modern radiation therapy and amazing targeted medications with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

Know Your Risk. If you or a loved one are between the ages of 50 and 80 years old and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years (or the equivalent), you are at a higher risk for developing lung cancer. Also, if you currently smoke or quit smoking in the past 15 years and are between the ages of 50 and 80, you are also at risk.

Get Screened. If you meet these risk profiles, you should participate in an annual screening program, which is covered by insurance (including Medicare). Annual low-dose CT screening has been shown to reduce deaths for high-risk patients by 20%. A CT screening is a quick, non-invasive X-ray that can be performed at most hospitals.

If you're not sure where to go to get screened or have questions, connect with one of our Cancer Patient Navigators. They can help you find a convenient screening location, schedule your screening and coordinate any follow-up care recommended by your doctor.

Patients do not need to receive care at UAMS to benefit from our patient navigator program. Call 1-855-569-3691 or email [email protected] For faster service, please fill out a referral form online at redcap.link/NavigationReferral.

If you are having symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing and weight loss, this can be a sign of advanced stage disease. Seek care from the multidisciplinary team available at UAMS. New patients should call 501.296.1200 to schedule an appointment.

The toll of lung cancer on our people and state has been heavy, but the tide is turning. We have made incredible advances in screening and all treatment options over the past few years, with incredible breakthroughs on the horizon. Most recently, UAMS was the recipient of an $18.9 million award from the National Institutes of Health to form the Center for Research, Health and Social Justice. We know that Arkansans living in rural areas and minority populations are hit disproportionately hard by chronic diseases like cancer. This new center will be a catalyst for improving cancer outcomes particularly in areas of our state where racial and place-based health disparities are too high.

We are optimistic that we can change the Arkansas' lung cancer story. We can improve our state's health, but to accelerate these changes we need all the help we can get with awareness and outreach.

Print Headline: Lung Cancer Challenge

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