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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) –More people die of lung cancer in Kentucky than in any other state in the U.S. That's why there's a new push to better inform Kentuckians about the new recommendations for who should be undergoing an early detection screening.
Lung cancer survivor, Rhonda Raley, says it was a screening test almost two years ago that saved her life, "My mother called me and asked me when I would go get tested."
Raley, was the first person in the state to undergo a specialized low radiation CT scan that can detect the early stages of lung cancer.
"If it hadn't been detected I don't think I'd be alive today. Literally I don't believe I would at all," she said.
"A big study with 50,000 people was able to prove that the new low dose CT scan in fact finds cancer early," said Oncologist," Dr. Goetz Kloecker.
Kloecker, of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, says the new technology has the potential to save 20% more people through early detection. Prior to now, there was no screening method used to find lung cancer early. Currently, only 15% of cases are found early when the survival rate is 53.5%. Most aren't diagnosed until later, when the survival rate is only 3.9%
But Kloecker warned, "It has to be a patient, who is at a high risk, It's important we don't start doing CT scans on everybody."
A high risk patient is someone between the ages of 55 and 79 who's smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes every day for 30 years. The CT scan is only reserved for this group because the highly sensitive test will show all kinds of nodules and imperfections in the lungs, which can cause false alarms for patients not considered high risk. Doctors at the Brown Cancer Center are working on better lung cancer screening methods, like a blood test or even a breath analysis but for now the low dose CT, is the best technology available.
Kloecker said, "So right now this is the best that we have."
"The U-S task force guidelines are changing they're changing and hoping that by the end of the year insurance will then pay for these lung cancer screenings," explained Pam Jennings, Kentucky Cancer Program.
After her initial screening, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Rhonda Raley is officially cancer free.
"If I hadn't gone I wouldn't be here. So I'm thankful. Every day is an absolute blessing for me…One more day," she said.
The Kentucky Caner Program will host a free community forum about lung cancer screenings on Tues. Nov. 19th at UofL's CTR Building at 505 S. Hancock Street, Louisville. Expert panel representatives from UofL, UK, Kentucky One Health, Norton Healthcare, Baptist Health and the Kentucky Cancer Consortium. Lunch will be served. To RSVP, please call (502) 852-6318