Governor Steve Beshear today joined members of the Kentucky Cancer Foundation and state health care officials to announce the progress of a public-private collaboration created last year to tackle the state's continued problem with high rates of cancer.
Kentucky is one of the worst states in the nation for cancer. Of all Kentucky cancer deaths from 2005-2009, 52 percent were from lung, breast, cervical and colon cancers.
The foundation is nearing its goal of matching dollar for dollar the $1 million in funding Gov. Beshear placed in his budget last year to establish the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program and to help the foundation institute other selected portions of the state's overall Kentucky Cancer Action Plan.
The Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program is in the process of screening 2,000 uninsured Kentuckians through June 30, 2014. To date, the program has screened some 500 Kentuckians for colon cancer. Twenty--five percent of those who had colonoscopies were found to have pre-cancerous polyps that were removed to prevent the development of cancer.
The program, administered by the Kentucky Department of Public Health, is providing the colon cancer screenings to a targeted population at 10 selected local health departments across the state to low-income, uninsured Kentuckians between the ages of 50-64.
As part of the screening, members of this group who are at average risk for colon cancer are being screened with a simple, low-cost stool test while those who are at higher risk are being screened with a colonoscopy.
"These colon cancer screenings go hand and hand with our work to make Kentucky a healthier state and make available affordable, quality health care to the 640,000 people in Kentucky who do not have health insurance," said Gov. Beshear. "A number of Kentuckians can thank the early detection and treatment by the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program for saving their lives. We expect similar results for thousands of Kentuckians once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in the Commonwealth."
Lack of health care is one of the greatest hindrances to Kentucky's improving its future, Gov. Beshear said.
The Governor said his partnership with the foundation is a perfect example of the type of effort needed to provide education and preventive programs to reduce cancer across the Commonwealth.
Kentucky was No. 1 for lung cancer incidence and mortality in the nation from 2005-2009. The incidence rate was 49 percent higher than the national average, while the mortality rate was 46 percent higher than the rest of the nation.
Kentucky's incidence of colon cancer was also the highest in the nation from 2005-2009. The incidence rate was 19 percent higher than the national average. Kentucky also had the fourth-highest colon and rectal cancer death rate in the United States.
In making the announcement today, the foundation recognized donors who gave private funds to pay for the evidence-based prevention and early detection services for citizens of the Commonwealth who are unable to afford colon cancer screenings. In the future, the foundation seeks to expand its financial support to services like mammograms, pap smears, smoking cessation programs and additional colon cancer screenings.
Louisville Gastroenterologist Whitney Jones, a co-founder of the foundation, and its board are raising the matching funds for these screenings.
"Kentucky leading the nation is overall cancer mortality is no longer acceptable," said Dr. Jones. "This is our problem, we own it, period. The Kentucky Cancer Foundation formation creates a new vision to rapidly transform our Commonwealth into the nation's leader in cancer prevention and early detection. Our goal this year is colon cancer, in the future, smoking cessation, breast and cervical cancer services. The Kentucky Cancer Foundation mission is to raise funds sufficient so that all Kentuckians have access to evidence-based, widely accepted and proven cancer prevention and early detection services."
Major donors of the foundation during its first year have included the University of Kentucky Healthcare, Norton Healthcare, KentuckyOne Health, Baptist Health and Passport Health Plan.
The Kentucky Cancer Action Plan outlines goals and strategies for cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and quality of life, and is implemented through collaborative efforts of members of the Kentucky Cancer Consortium which has infrastructure funded by the CDC. The consortium is a statewide comprehensive cancer control coalition of more than 55 organizations charged with reducing the significant cancer burden in Kentucky.
Board members of the foundation include Dr. Whitney Jones, Dr. Dan Kenady, Henry Altman, Kevin Atkins, Dr. Philip Bale, Lyle Hanna, Ian Henderson, Ellen Hesen, Crit Luallen, Mark Milburn, Laura Owens, Dr. Jennifer Redmond, Robert Shaw, Alice Sparks, Dr. David Stevens, and Jack Hillard, executive director, and Taylor Temple, associate director.