Shaping a law to help save lives

Members of Kentucky LEADS at bill signing

State-funded program will create greater access to lung cancer screening for Kentuckians.

Kentucky recently established a state-funded lung cancer screening program, making it among the first in the nation to do so. The UK Markey Cancer Center played a significant role in development of the new law.

Signed in July 2022, House Bill 219 created a lung cancer screening program in the Kentucky Department for Public Health. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Kimberly Moser, also creates a lung cancer screening fund and a Lung Cancer Screening Advisory Committee that will oversee the program. The program has three goals:

  • Increase the number of people screened
  • Lower lung cancer rates and deaths
  • Reduce the cost of treating lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Kentucky. The Commonwealth also has the unfortunate distinction of being highest in the nation for both lung cancer cases and deaths. The new screening program could make a significant impact on those numbers. It was inspired in part by the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program. Established in 2008, the colon cancer program contributed to multiple statewide efforts that helped reduce Kentucky’s colon cancer rates from 49th in the nation to 22nd.

The Kentucky Cancer Consortium (KCC) Lung Cancer Network and the Kentucky LEADS (Lung Cancer Education Awareness Detection Survivorship) Collaborative, both housed at Markey, were created soon after national lung cancer screening guidelines were first approved in 2013. These groups had a common goal of making Kentucky a leader in lung cancer screening. As a result, the state has had early success and now ranks second highest in the nation for screenings. Still, many people who qualify haven’t gotten the annual screening.

Key to inspiring the bill was the KCC Lung Cancer Network. Rep. Moser attended network meetings led by Markey to hear input from this group of more than 150 statewide partners. Markey’s community outreach and engagement team and the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative leadership also provided comments, advising on revisions to language in the bill. An earlier draft focused on providing screenings only for uninsured and underinsured people.

“Using data from the 2021 Kentucky Cancer Needs Assessment, we were able to point out that only about 6% of Kentuckians have no insurance and less than 20,000 people would quality for the program,” said Dr. Pamela Hull, Markey associate director of population science and community impact. Based on this input, the bill was reshaped. The program will focus on improving access to high-quality screenings based on current data, guidelines and best practices rather than insurance status.

“Kentucky is home to some of the worst cancer rates in the country, and lung cancer is at the top of that list,” said Dr. Timothy Mullett, medical director of the UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate and Research Networks and co-principal investigator of the Kentucky LEADS Collaborative. “But because of our collaborative work with many organizations and individuals in early detection in lung cancer, we are seeing decreases in late-stage lung cancer that we have not seen before. [The new legislation] will continue to help reduce the impact of this disease by increasing access to the life-saving procedure for thousands of Kentuckians.”

“The new legislation will continue to help reduce the impact of this disease by increasing access to the life-saving procedure for thousands of Kentuckians.”

Dr. Timothy Mullett

The lung cancer screening program bill passed with an initial appropriation of $500,000. The KCC, the Kentucky Cancer Program at UK and the Kentucky Cancer Registry, all housed at Markey, are required members of the program’s advisory committee.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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