Lung Cancer Awareness Month: The need to be screened

Published 11:02 am Monday, November 6, 2023

By Lance Gaither

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and the Ephraim McDowell Lung Center hosted a seminar at the Danville Country Club on Nov. 1 to raise awareness about the importance of early screening and the state-of-the-art technology available there.

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Lung Center thoracic surgeon Dr. C. Wayne Holley said there is a lot of work to do in Kentucky in terms of cancer awareness.

“Kentucky is the 50th out of 50 in terms of mortality for lung cancer,” Holley said. “I think it is lack of awareness of the problem. I think any time some one starts talking about lung cancer, smokers don’t want you to interfere with their habit.”

Many Kentuckians, he said, are not getting the screenings that they should be.

“In our six-county region, I calculated, to the best of my ability, that about 10,000 people need lung cancer screenings,” Holley said. “Right now, only 1,000 are getting screened. Even if only 50 percent of the population got screened, that would still be 4,000 more lung cancer screenings. The point is that lung cancer has been a big problem for 100 years and we need to address it.”

Although the majority of his patients are smokers, Holley said there has been a nationwide increase in lung cancer rates among nonsmokers.

“That begets the question, is there a genetic predisposition to this? Research is indicating their is, but there is more to be discovered,” Holley said.

He explained that catching it early is one of the most important factors of survival.

“If you catch it in the early stage, you have a chance to be cured and live to see the grandchildren,” Holley said. “If you catch it late stage, you have a one-in-five to one-in-10 chance to live to see five years.”

Lung cancer is a particularly dangerous disease because it often lacks symptoms. To be eligible for screening at the Ephraim McDowell Lung Center patients must be betweens ages 50 and 80 and have pack-year history of 20 or more. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs smoked per day by years as a smoker. Former smokers with the previous criteria are also eligible.