The GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer recently named Owensboro Health a Screening Center of Excellence.

Only about 600 providers in 42 states have earned that honor, according to the foundation's website. The list of providers is used to guide people at risk for lung cancer to centers that screen patients responsibly.

OH and Baptist Health in Paducah are the only health systems in western Kentucky to earn the foundation's stamp of approval.

OH provides low-dose CT scans — state-of-the-art screenings that are able to detect lung abnormalities, nodules and early-stage cancer — at five locations. Three of those are in the Messenger-Inquirer's readership area. They are OH Healthpark, OH Muhlenberg Community Hospital and Powderly Healthplex.

"We are proud and honored to be working with Owensboro Health as a GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer Screening Center of Excellence," Laurie Fenton Ambrose, GO2 co-founder, president and CEO, said in a press release. "Their commitment to practice responsible lung cancer screening will lead to advancements in research and many lives saved. They are an example to follow."

Lung cancer is the nation's deadliest type of cancer.

According to the American Lung Association, Kentucky has the highest number of new lung cancer diagnoses annually per 100,000 residents. The state's rate of new cases is nearly 97 per 100,000 residents. By comparison, the national rate is 63.

Early detection greatly increases a patient's chances of survival, said Dr. Thomas Waring, of OH Pulmonology.

At Stage I, or early detection, the survival rate is 65%, he said. The rate drops to 10% for Stage IV, which is late-stage cancer.

Having a local Screening Center of Excellence is important, Waring said.

"We feel as a Center of Excellence we strive to provide patients with outstanding lung cancer care through early detection and expert medical management," he said. "We hope this designation assists us in capturing more patients who smoke for early screening. This will ensure a longer, healthier life free from lung cancer."

Considering the region's population, Waring believes OH should perform at least 3,000 low-dose CT scans annually.

According to OH's records, however, the health system performed 1,270 scans in 2018. So far this year, that number is 1,075.

"This number is on a steady rise," said Ashley Jones, nurse navigator for the lung cancer screening program. "OH has placed a huge emphasis on lung cancer screening and lung cancer awareness. Due to this focus, I believe we will reach record numbers for this calendar year — with our system goal being a 30% increase in scans."

Candidates for lung cancer screenings are at least 55 years old and have a 30 pack-year smoking history, which means they smoked a pack of cigarettes daily for 30 years. Also, they are still smoking or have quit within the past 15 years. High-risk populations should be screened annually through the age of 77.

Low-dose CT scans do not expose patients to as much radiation as normal scans. The dose is usually about one-fifth that of a regular CT scan of the chest.

At-risk patients should ask their primary care physicians to refer them for a lung cancer screening. Patients without primary care providers may self-refer into the program by calling 270-417-7641.

OH officials have worked toward being named as a Screening Center of Excellence for some time. It is more than just a certification, said Felicia Troutman, practice manager for cardiothoracic surgery and the lung cancer screening program.

"It is a commitment that we make as a system to help improve the health of the communities we serve," Troutman said.

OH's overall goal is work to decrease the prevalence of lung cancer in the region and to help patients quit smoking, she said.

For more information about lung cancer screenings, go to OwensboroHealth.org/LungScreen.

"Owensboro Health is dedicated to providing patients with the highest quality care," said Dr. Francis DuFrayne. "Low-dose CT screening has shown to be a proven method to detect lung cancer at an early and treatable stage. We are thrilled to be part of this elite (GO2 Foundation) group, setting an example for responsible screening practices across the country."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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