Markey collaboration bringing broadband access and better cancer care to Appalachia

The UK Markey Cancer Center is joining a national collaboration that will help bridge the broadband connectivity gap to improve the lives of cancer patients in Appalachia.

The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force has announced that the FCC and the National Cancer Institute have joined forces, signing a memorandum of understanding that will focus on how increasing broadband access and adoption in rural areas can improve the lives of rural cancer patients. As an inaugural project under the memorandum of understanding, the agencies have convened a public-private collaboration that includes Markey to help bridge the broadband health connectivity gap in Appalachia, taking another concrete step toward closing the digital divide.

“Kentucky leads the nation in cancer incidence, and it’s our responsibility here at UK and the Markey Cancer Center to help reduce the burdens of cancer on our citizens,” said Robin Vanderpool, associate professor in the UK College of Public Health and director of Community Outreach and Engagement at Markey.

“This collaboration will allow us to connect an underserved population to resources that can help patients manage the symptoms that accompany cancer treatment and beyond, ultimately leading to an improved quality of life.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans living in rural areas are still more likely to die of cancer than their counterparts in urban settings, which sets them apart from the many communities nationwide that have experienced a 20 percent decrease in cancer mortality over the past two decades. Initial analysis of broadband data and cancer data shows that these rural “cancer hotspots” also face major gaps in broadband access and adoption, often putting promising connected care solutions far out of reach.

In Appalachia, the cancer picture is bleaker than in other rural parts of the country. Research from University of Virginia School of Medicine has shown that between 1969 and 2011, cancer incidence declined in every region of the country except rural Appalachia, and mortality rates soared.

“The quality, length and even value of life should not be determined by where you happen to be born or live,” said Michele Ellison, chair of the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force.

“And yet that’s exactly what’s happening.  Nowhere is this more acutely felt than in the rural parts of our country. Too many rural Americans suffer with late cancer diagnoses, unrelenting symptoms, and inadequate access to care.”

The project – titled L.A.U.N.C.H. (Linking & Amplifying User-Centered Networks through Connected Health): A Demonstration of Broadband-Enabled Health for Rural Populations in Appalachia – will target areas that face the dual challenge of higher cancer mortality rates and lower levels of broadband access. The initial geographic focus is planned for rural Kentucky. Highlighting the power of public-private collaborations, current project stakeholders include cancer experts, researchers, technologists and industry representatives from Markey, the University of California, San Diego’s Design Lab and Amgen.

 “Increasingly, broadband-enabled technologies are transforming the way cancer patients and survivors better manage, monitor, and treat their symptoms – helping them to live longer, better quality lives,” Ellison said. “But for rural Americans with limited access to broadband, many of these connected care solutions are unavailable. Better connectivity holds the promise of bringing first class care and treatment to anyone, anywhere.”

Additional information about the FCC-NCI memorandum and the broadband health demonstration project will be available online at Information about “critical need” counties at the intersection of broadband and health is available at

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massage therapy at UK HealthCare

Treat or treatment? Massage therapy provides real health benefits

Marilyn Burke

Marilyn Burke

Written by Marilyn Burke, LMT, APP, CITI, a licensed massage therapist at UK HealthCare.

Our UK Integrative Medicine & Health program compliments traditional medicines and therapies to help treat the whole person, with an emphasis on healing and wellness.

One way we do that is through massage therapy, a practice that nurtures the mind-body connection and fosters a sense of peace, comfort and relaxation.

What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy involves structured touch, holding, pressure and manipulation of the soft tissues in the body to promote healing and a sense of well-being. There are different approaches to massage, all of which emphasize personalized, one-on-one care that can be tailored to the needs of the individual.

What are the benefits of massage therapy?

Studies have shown that massage therapy has a positive impact on the mind and body and can be beneficial in managing the side effects of many medical conditions.

In general, massage relieves muscle tension and stress, reduces anxiety and fluid retention, improves sleep, and restores hope. But exactly how massage affects the individual depends on the type of therapy administered. We offer several different types of massages here at UK HealthCare.

Types of massages we offer

Relaxation: A relaxation or Swedish massage helps reduce stress and soothe and calm the body. Treatment consists of flowing strokes, kneading and gentle manipulations of the muscles performed at a lighter pressure. Benefits include reduced inflammation, stress, soreness and blood pressure. Relaxation massage also enhances sleep, circulation and overall well-being.

Therapeutic: A therapeutic massage incorporates firm, focused movements to help address a specific problem, such as pain or tightness, by manipulating muscle tissue to promote structural changes within the body. Benefits may include improved range of motion, less pain and reduced swelling.

Oncology: Oncology massage therapy is designed for those undergoing cancer treatment or those who have had cancer treatment in the past. It helps relieve short- and long-term side effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Our licensed therapists are specially trained in cancer massage and will adapt massage techniques to each patient’s unique health situation.

Prenatal: Prenatal massage can help manage the side effects of pregnancy, such as pain and discomfort in the back and shoulders, joint and muscle strain, fluid retention, and anxiety. Prenatal massage is suitable only for women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Reiki: Reiki provides a sense of calm and relaxation, reduces pain, and improves sleep. The practice involves a gentle placement of hands above the body, using life-force energy to facilitate the process of healing. Reiki can be added to any massage session.

Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the use of fragrance to improve physical or psychological well-being. Scents such as lavender, citrus, ginger and peppermint have been shown to relieve some of the side effects of illness, including nausea and pain. Aromatherapy can be added to any massage or Reiki session for an extra fee.

Massage therapy at UK HealthCare

Patients and their family members as well as UK HealthCare staff members can all take advantage of the massage services we provide. If you have any questions or concerns about physical limitations that may affect your ability to receive a massage, please talk to your physician and consult our massage therapy staff.

Prices for massages vary depending on the type of massage requested and the length of the session. We accept cash, check or credit card for payment. See the full price list here.

For more information about pricing and to schedule a massage, call 859-323-HEAL(4325). To speak to a practitioner about massage therapy, call 859-323-1797 or email me at

Next steps:

  • Looking for a great holiday gift for a patient or staff member at UK HealthCare? Call 859-323-4325 (HEAL) to purchase a massage therapy gift certificate.
  • Find out more about UK Integrative Medicine & Health, which focuses on the treating the whole patient using all appropriate therapies, healthcare expertise and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.
Markey 11th floor

Markey unveils new state-of-the-art cancer care floor in Pavilion A

The UK Markey Cancer Center on Friday unveiled its new inpatient floor on the 11th floor of the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital Pavilion A. The state-of-the-art facility will allow the care teams at Markey to treat more patients with complex cancer diagnoses in an environment specifically designed for healing.

The new floor has a unit in each tower: Tower 100 houses the James and Gay Hardymon Patient Care Unit, a 31-bed unit for medical and surgical oncology patients. Tower 200 is home to the Darley Blood and Marrow Transplantation Unit, a 32-bed unit for bone marrow transplant and patients with blood cancers. Between the two units, eight total new cancer inpatient beds have been added.

“For more than 30 years, Markey has been providing exceptional cancer care to the citizens of Kentucky, and our patient volume has increased dramatically in the past several years,” said Markey Director Dr. Mark Evers. “This is the first time we’ve been able to expand clinical care into new space. We are thrilled to open up this state-of-the-art facility for our inpatients, which has been specifically designed to cater to the needs of our patients and staff alike.”

Don’t miss the video tour and photo gallery of the new floor at the end of this blog!

Comfortable and functional

The new rooms are substantially larger in size than those on the previous Markey inpatient floors: All patient rooms in Pavilion A are private and nearly 300 square feet in size. Large windows provide natural light and outdoor views, an important factor for patients who may require lengthy inpatient stays for complex cancers.

“Some of our patients may stay between 20 and 40 days as an inpatient,” said Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of hematology and blood and marrow transplant for Markey. “The new floor lets patients feel more at home. If you’re away from your family and you undergo such aggressive treatment, it’s important that you have an environment where you feel very comfortable.”

The new floor was designed with functionality in mind: Markey’s highly trained and experienced nursing staff gave input on the layout of the floor based on their personal experiences and feedback from their patients. Each patient room is equipped with a nurse work station right outside the door, minimizing time spent away from the patient’s bedside.

“Our nurses are with these patients 24 hours a day, so they truly are the backbone of inpatient care,” said Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare’s chief nurse executive and chief administrative officer. “Their recommendations for the creation of this floor were invaluable and have allowed us make Markey’s already stellar quality of care even more patient- and family-centered.”

The floor is also set up to facilitate the multidisciplinary approach to care, with extra spaces allowing for specialists and team members from a wide variety of areas to meet and discuss each individual patient as a team.

“Our nursing staff – who are exceptional in understanding what these patients are facing – will work with numerous specialties to ensure multidisciplinary care,” said Dr. Lowell Anthony, division chief of medical oncology at Markey. “Bringing it together is what it’s really about. Good communication among all parties creates an environment where we can heal our patients more efficiently and get them home quickly.”

Floor features

Patients on the new floor will have access to both oncology rehabilitation and integrative medicine services, including pet therapy, art therapy, music therapy, narrative medicine and much more. Additionally, the two units have features unique to Pavilion A, catering to the specific needs of cancer patients who require an inpatient stay:

  • The family suite, a hotel-style room that is connected to a patient room, allowing loved ones to literally live right next door to the patient throughout their stay. This room can be booked for a nominal fee.
  • The Family Comfort Center, a living room-style space designed by Markey patients that provides an area for families to gather, talk and take a break from the clinical space.
  • The business center, a quiet space that houses four workstations and two private offices for patients or loved ones to keep up with work or other responsibilities during their stay.
  • Concierge kitchen, opening in spring 2018, featuring an on-call chef who will offer meals that are beneficial to oncology patients and allow them access to healthy snacks and smoothies throughout the day. Additionally, two family kitchens are available for patients and their family members to prepare their own meals.
  • Several lead-lined patient rooms allowing for certain radiation procedures to be safely performed without the need to transport the patient to another location.
  • Laundry facilities for patient and family use.

Since receiving a National Cancer Institute designation in 2013, Markey has grown tremendously with around 3,300 inpatient visits a year. Overall analytic cancer cases are up 34 percent in the past five years. And in just the past three years, bone marrow transplants have increased from 80-85 performed each year to more than 110 in the past year.

“Having an NCI-designated cancer center allows patients across the whole state to have access to the very best, and Markey is a destination for people who need complex care,” said Dr. Mark Newman, executive vice president for health affairs. “With the new Markey inpatient floor, we’re trying to create the kind of environment where people can come, receive treatment and heal. It’s an environment where both the family and the patient can feel very hopeful about the potential outcomes of their treatments.”

‘A higher level of care’

Although the physical space is brand new, the most critical component of cancer care remains the same: the faculty and staff.

Markey patient Sarah Lister was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in early 2016 and spent more than four months combined as an inpatient at Markey under the care of Hildebrandt, ultimately receiving a bone marrow transplant.

She notes that for incoming patients, the new floor provides a warm, welcoming environment full of light and artwork, complementing the already stellar medical care patients can expect to receive.

“The bricks and mortar are not the most essential thing,” Lister said. “Because the staff is key – it’s the people that are the healing, the medicine comes first. But when you’re bringing all those people into this beautiful new space, I think you’re aiming for a higher level of care. This space is honoring the good work that goes on here.”

Next steps

UK psychologist helps sick kids manage the stress of treatment

Treatment for any serious medical condition can be daunting for even the most fearless adults. But for children who deal with serious illness, fear, anxiety and a lack of understanding can make it difficult for them to cope with their treatment.

Dr. Meghan Marsac, pediatric psychologist and assistant professor in the UK College of Medicine, saw how many parents and children struggled to navigate the stress and logistics of treatment.

“When I was helping kids and parents adjust to what life was like with pediatric cancer, there were a lot of things we were teaching over and over again,” Marsac said. “Parents wouldn’t know these things. You’re not supposed to have a kid with cancer.”

And so Cellie was born. Designed by Marsac during her fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Cellie Coping Kit was developed for children ages 6-12, and includes of a plush toy named Cellie, a deck of cards with coping and communication techniques, and a book for caregivers. The first Cellie kit was geared toward children with cancer, but has since been adapted for children with sickle cell disease, traumatic injuries and food allergies. A kit for eosinophilic esophagitis, an allergy condition that causes inflammation of the esophagus, is in the works, as is a kit for the siblings of children with illness or disability.

How Cellie helps

The kit is designed not only to comfort children during their illness, but also to provide them with the tools they need to understand their treatment and communicate their feelings.

The coping cards address various “stressors” children can face, including scary procedures (such as needle sticks), emotional stress and side effects of treatment such as nausea or hair loss. The kit also addresses how to manage situations such as missed school or playing outside. The caregiver book parallels the cards, giving parents the advice on how to address their child’s concerns.

“We reviewed the cards and that helped [our son] understand that some of the feelings he has are similar to other children here,” said one parent. “So he didn’t feel like he was alone.”

For example, the card in the child’s kit that addresses a fear of needle sticks lists several tips, including “squeezing Cellie tight and looking at Cellie until it is over” or “telling your nurse or parent a story.”

“The pain tips help me,” said one child. “The pain thermometer, the faces, and the belly breathing card…that helped me a lot.”

Working together to help families cope

Much of Marsac’s research is centered around developing and evaluating programs designed to help parents and children manage medical conditions and preventing long-term emotional impairment after illness or injury.

Cellie was initially developed to help Marsac’s pediatric cancer patients, but she recognized the need for coping tools for children with a variety of conditions. The Cellie Coping Kit for sickle cell disease shares many components with the cancer kit. The food allergy kit was designed after Marsac’s conversation with one of her students about the dearth of allergy resources for children.

Marsac and her team worked directly with doctors, nurses, psychologists, child-life specialists and families to develop the kit. Extensive research was conducted to determine what was most difficult for families when it came to navigating treatment and what medical teams could do to assist families. Families reported that the kit was a useful tool in promoting conversations about illness in the family.

“[Our daughter] just become more aware about [her condition] by reading the cards and asking a lot of questions,” said one parent. “Some of the things on the cards she didn’t understand before, so she has more of an education now.

“This is all the stuff we’ve been going through.”

Children who learn early how to discuss their illness are better equipped to manage it better as adults, Marsac said.

“We know that physical and emotional health are intertwined,” she said. “Our team’s goal is to support both parts of health, and the kits are designed to walk families through treatment.”

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UK study finds smoke-free laws lead to reduced rates of lung cancer

A recent study by UK’s BREATHE (Bridging Research Efforts and Advocacy Toward Healthy Environments) shows that fewer new cases of lung cancer were found in communities with strong smoke-free workplace laws.

Strong smoke-free laws are known to improve public health by lowering rates of heart attack, stroke, asthma and emphysema. This study, led by Ellen Hahn, PhD, director of BREATHE and professor in the UK College of Nursing, is the first to show that new cases of lung cancer are lower when communities enact strong smoke-free laws.

The results of the study were published in Cancer, an American Cancer Society journal dedicated to providing clinicians with information on diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Benefits of stronger smoke-free laws

Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state, and its mortality rate is 50 percent higher than the national average. Hahn and her team studied whether new cases of lung cancer in Kentucky were lower, higher or stable in communities with smoke-free laws.

“Kentucky has one of the highest adult cigarette smoking rates and the highest rate of new lung cancer cases in the nation,” Hahn said. “Only one-third of Kentuckians are protected by strong smoke-free workplace laws.”

Though other environmental factors play a part in the development of lung cancer, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are the root cause of the disease.

“This new study shows that having strong smoke-free workplace laws in place to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke is one more way we can help protect our citizens from this devastating disease,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Creating more smoke-free workplaces

Using data compiled from the Kentucky Cancer Registry, the Cancer Research Informatics Shared Resource Facility and Markey, researchers looked at 20 years of new lung cancer diagnoses among Kentuckians age 50 and over in communities with strong, moderate and weak smoke-free laws.

Lung cancer incidence was 8 percent lower in communities with strong smoke-free workplace laws compared to communities without smoke-free laws. Researchers did not find differences in lung cancer rates between communities with moderate or weak smoke-free laws and those without any smoke-free laws.

These findings could be used to prompt legislation to create more communities with strong smoke-free workplace laws in Kentucky.

“Local government can play a critical role in preventing lung cancer,” said Hahn. “Elected officials can ensure that all workers and the public are protected from secondhand smoke by passing strong smoke-free laws with few or no exceptions.”

BREATHE is a multi-disciplinary research, outreach, and practice collaborative of the UK College of Nursing. Its mission is to promote lung health and healthy environments to achieve health equity through research, community outreach and empowerment, advocacy and policy development and access to health services.

For more information about BREATHE, visit www.breathe.uky.eduClick here to see the map and listings of smoke-free ordinances in Kentucky.

Next steps:

Markey receives NCI grant to expand tobacco cessation treatment

The UK Markey Cancer Center is one of 22 cancer centers nationwide to receive funding to build and implement tobacco cessation treatment programs via the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Cessation Initiative.

In 2017, NCI launched the Cancer Center Cessation Initiative as part of the NCI Cancer Moonshot℠ program. Through this initiative, Markey will receive $253,000 over the next year to help enhance the delivery of tobacco cessation treatments through four major efforts:

  • Refining electronic medical records and clinical workflows to ensure the systematic identification and documentation of smokers and the routine delivery of evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment services.
  • Overcoming patient, clinician, clinic and health system barriers to providing tobacco cessation treatment services.
  • Achieving institutional buy-in that treating tobacco use is a component of organizational “Standard of Care.”
  • Creating mechanisms to sustain tobacco cessation treatment services so that they continue beyond the funding period of the initiative.

Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state, and its mortality rate is 50 percent higher than the national average. Though other environmental factors play a part in the development of lung cancer, smoking and other uses of tobacco are the root cause of the disease.

“This grant award provides the means for Markey to embark on a clinically important, two-pronged approach to tobacco treatment, one that includes both provider education and patient care,” said Jessica Burris, assistant professor of psychology in the UK College of Arts & Sciences and member of the Markey Cancer Prevention and Control program.

“The goal is to quickly and reliably assess the tobacco use status of each and every patient, and to deliver evidence-based cessation treatment to all tobacco users. With this initiative, the promise of a marked, positive impact on the lives of Markey patients is clear because tobacco treatment is cancer treatment.”

Next steps:

Dr. Jonathan Kiev answers questions about lung cancer.

Got questions about lung cancer? Dr. Jonathan Kiev has answers.

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Dr. Jonathan Kiev

Written by Dr. Jonathan Kiev, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UK HealthCare.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, so now’s a great time for me to answer some common questions about the disease.

Lung cancer is a major problem in Kentucky. Unfortunately, our state leads the nation in both lung cancer incidence and deaths.

The good news is people who are at high risk for lung cancer – specifically, those who have a history of smoking – are eligible to undergo low-dose CT screening for the disease. This diagnostic test allows us to find lung cancer at a much earlier stage, giving us more time to potentially provide life-saving treatments. Even better news? The UK Markey Cancer Center has a Lung Cancer Screen Program for patients at high risk.

So, who’s at risk for lung cancer and what causes the disease?

First and foremost, if you smoke, seek help to quit.

Smoking is by far the No. 1 cause of lung cancer, and it causes head and neck cancers, too. It’s responsible for a variety of health problems not seen in non-smokers. In addition, hypertension and peripheral vascular disease are directly related to smoking, which is why getting on a nicotine cessation program is the first step.

(Related: Check out our tips for conquering a smoking addiction.)

Your doctor will take into account your current health and health history to decide if you are at risk for lung cancer. They will then order the appropriate blood tests and imaging (chest X-ray and CT scan) to see if you have developed early signs of the disease.

Can working in a coal mine or around asbestos cause lung cancer?

Any inhaled substance or chemical can cause lung cancer over repeated exposure, so the short answer is yes.

More importantly, exposure to these types of substances in high-risk professions can lead to other chronic lung illnesses as well. Patients in these professions need to be followed by specialists who understand their occupational risks and hazards.

What is lung cancer staging?

Staging is a way for your physician to determine the type of lung cancer that you have, and whether it has spread to your lymph nodes or to other organs.

Lung cancer can spread to the brain, bones and the adrenal gland. These are all treatable areas, but we like to catch the tumor as early as possible. Staging allows physicians to determine which therapy is best for you: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of those. Additionally, your prognosis and risk of recurrence are linked to cancer stage.

How is lung cancer treated?

There are different options to treat lung cancer, so it’s important for you and your family to seek second opinions and find a physician who understands your priorities.

Surgery is best used for early-stage tumors that are smaller, but we can also perform successful operations for larger tumors that have spread to the chest wall. Radiation is available to patients that are not interested in or are not healthy enough to recover from a major chest surgery.

How is lung cancer surgery performed?

Thoracic surgeons specialize in the latest oncology techniques to successfully perform lung cancer surgery.

Typically, surgeons use small incisions and a camera to remove the diseased segments of the lung and its surrounding lymph nodes. Occasionally, a larger incision between the ribs is necessary (this is called a thoracotomy) if the tumor is large or centrally located.

Is robotic surgery available for lung cancer?

Yes, robotic surgery has been available for about 10 years, and it allows your surgeon to remove the affected lung or areas of the lung.

Robotic surgery provides a three-dimensional view, allowing surgeons to better see the areas they’re operating on.

Next steps:

UK collaboration working to provide more effective treatment for lung cancer

Newly published findings from UK faculty reveal a novel cell signaling interaction that may prevent a key step in lung cancer progression.

Kentucky continues to lead the nation in incidence and death rates from lung cancer, and the UK College of Pharmacy is committed to reducing these numbers.

Lung cancers are often diagnosed in later stages, with very few treatment options available. Patients often develop a resistance to a targeted therapy, resulting in a need for a variety of therapies that can be administered in stages or coupled together.

A collaboration between the UK College of Pharmacy and the Department of Statistics in the UK College of Arts and Sciences is working to address this problem. The project is the work of Madeline Krentz Gober, a recent graduate of the UK College of Pharmacy’s graduate program in the lab of pharmacy faculty member Penni Black. Staff scientist James Collard and UK College of Arts and Sciences faculty member Katherine Thompson also contributed to the findings.

Previous work from the group established that a collection of microRNAs – small RNA that plays a role in regulating biological process like growth and proliferation – could predict sensitivity of non-small cell lung cancer cells to erlotinib, a drug that is effective in treating lung cancer in certain patients.

Further investigation into this collection of microRNA genes revealed a previously unknown relationship between the role of transforming growth factor TGFβ in initiating metastasis and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling non-small cell lung cancers.

Essentially, microRNA molecules that alter TGFβ activity may prevent a key step in metastasis for cancer progression known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and this interaction may also require the activity of EGFR, perhaps unappreciated in the initiation of metastasis.

“Getting the right drugs in the right patients is critical to improving cancer outcomes,” said Jill Kolesar, co-director of the Molecular Tumor Board at the UK Markey Cancer Center. “Dr. Black’s work is an important step in predicting which patients benefit most from erlotinib treatment.”

Ongoing work in Professor Black’s lab seeks to uncover biomarkers of response and toxicity to new immunotherapeutic agents used in the fight against lung cancer.

Next steps:

lung cancer

5 things you should know about lung cancer even if you don’t smoke

Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer, taking more lives every year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to learn more about the disease. Here are five things that everyone should know:

1. You don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer.

Although smoking is far and away the leading cause of lung cancer, non-smokers get the disease, too.

In fact, close to 20 percent of people who die from the disease didn’t smoke or use tobacco. Other factors, including radon exposure, exposure to secondhand smoke and genetic mutations, can all cause non-smokers to get lung cancer.

2. Lung cancer often has no symptoms …

Part of what makes lung cancer so deadly is its lack of symptoms. In many cases, symptoms don’t appear until the disease has advanced, often to an incurable stage.

Unfortunately, many common symptoms of lung cancer – such as a persistent cough, hoarseness, shortness of breath and chest pain – can be mistaken for other health problems, which further delays diagnosis.

3. … Which is why screening is so important.

When early-stage lung cancer is detected, a patient’s chance of survival can be as high as 70 percent.

That’s why the UK Markey Cancer Center created the Lung Cancer Screening Program, which offers low-dose CT screenings for patients who are at a high risk of developing lung cancer. Screenings are recommended for patients who:

  • Are ages 55-80.
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Have a 30 pack-year smoking history, meaning the patient smokes one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, or two packs per day for 15 years.
  • Have no current symptoms of lung cancer.

A lung cancer screening CT scan can detect cancer before symptoms are noticeable and at an early stage. When we find cancer at an early stage, many treatment options are available, which greatly improves the likelihood of survival.

Lung cancer screening does carry risks, including low-dose exposure to radiation and the possibility of more invasive follow-up tests. For that reason, only patients at a high risk for the disease who meet the criteria above should be screened.

4. Lung cancer hits hardest in Kentucky.

It’s a No. 1 ranking we’re not proud of in Kentucky: Our state leads the nation in lung cancer incidence and mortality.

Unsurprisingly, Kentucky also has the highest percentage of smokers in the country, with more than a quarter of residents age 18 or older reporting a smoking habit.

If you’re a smoker, you probably already know it’s a good idea to quit. Here are some tips for finally conquering your addiction.

5. Lung cancer treatment is getting better

One of the most promising recent developments in lung cancer treatment is the use of precision medicine to treat the disease. Precision medicine targets specific mutations in a person’s tumor, which leads to more effective treatment with fewer side effects.

Precision medicine treatments are available at the nation’s top cancer centers, where teams of cancer experts can come together to assess individuals’ genetic attributes and make treatment recommendations tailored to each person.

The UK Markey Cancer Center recently launched its own Molecular Tumor Board, which brings these precision medicine options to patients across Kentucky. Even better for patients with lung cancer is that they can be seen by the tumor board right after their initial diagnosis.

Next steps:

  • Learn more about Markey’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Program, which provides expert care for conditions including small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers of the chest and lungs.
  • Markey is Kentucky’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, providing world-class cancer care right here in the Commonwealth. Learn more about why patients choose Markey for their cancer treatment.

National network gives Markey patients greater access to personalized care

The UK Markey Cancer Center has joined the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN), a unique research partnership among North America’s top cancer centers that recognize collaboration and access to data are the keys to cancer discovery. Membership will allow Markey’s physicians and researchers to improve patient access to personalized medicine – cancer treatments targeted to the patient’s particular cancer mutation. Markey is the latest addition to this 17-member research partnership.

“It takes teamwork to make great progress in cancer treatments,” said Dr. Mark Evers, director of the UK Markey Cancer Center.

“Markey has always subscribed to this idea, utilizing the resources from a variety of experts across UK’s clinical and academic campuses to treat our patients. This new partnership with ORIEN will allow us to collaborate with some of the best cancer centers across the country, exchanging vital information back and forth that will ultimately lead to new, improved treatments becoming available for Kentuckians.”

Personalized cancer treatment

As cancer care becomes more based on genetics versus tumor types, researchers are discovering specific, often-rare mutations that lead to the disease. To develop personalized clinical trials that can target these mutations, ORIEN members pool their resources and contribute to a shared databank.

Much of their work will focus on patients with advanced primary or metastatic disease, those with limited treatment options, and patients who are likely to develop progressive disease.

ORIEN members follow the Total Cancer Care Protocol, a well-organized, collaborative approach to studying patients throughout their lifetime. Total Cancer Care provides a standard system for tracking patient data and follows the patient throughout his or her lifetime.

This gives clinicians and researchers access to a searchable, growing database of medical information from respected peers that can help them match patients to targeted treatments. This database represents one of the world’s largest clinically annotated cancer tissue repositories, comprising data from more than 200,000 participating patients.

“ORIEN will benefit Kentucky patients with cancer by matching them to clinical trials with drugs targeted to the individual molecular profile of their tumor,” said Jill Kolesar, PharmD, director of the Precision Medicine Clinic at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

“Combined with our National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials, patients at Markey will have access to a large menu of precision medicine clinical trials.”

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