Take a deep breath. Think about your lungs for a moment and all they do to keep you healthy. Do you understand your risk level for lung cancer and the things you can do to reduce your risk? Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is launching a new community-based lung cancer education and screening program to help our neighbors understand the risk factors associated with lung cancer, along with steps you can take to prevent it.
The incidence of lung cancer is higher in Western New York than in the rest of the state and across the United States. In our eight-county region, it causes 50 deaths per 100,000, compared with the New York State rate of 37.1 deaths per 100,000 and the U.S. rate of 41.9 deaths per 100,000.
Incidence from lung cancer are higher among African Americans in Western New York than for any other racial group, with more than 85 people out of every 100,000 developing the disease.
The Roswell Awareness, Information and Resources for Lung Cancer Screening, or AIR, program features both socially distanced in-person and virtual meetings to help people understand that lung cancer isn’t just associated with smoking. These meetings will be offered in both English and Spanish to better serve our neighbors.
The premise is simple, says Nikia Clark, a Community Relations Coordinator at Roswell Park.
“People come and learn what lung cancer is and how to lower their risk,” she says. “We give them information about what causes lung cancer, how to prevent it; we navigate them to resources and help them get signed up for screening. If they are current users of either tobacco or e-cigarettes or vaping products, we can navigate them to smoking cessation programs offered by the NYS Smokers Quitline. We work in partnership with that office and people can get free one-on-one counseling, either virtually or over the phone, and they can get free gum and patches to help them stop smoking.”
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but that is not the only way in which a person can develop the disease. There are environmental factors, like growing up around a smoker and breathing in second-hand smoke or working in a factory or enclosed area where pollutants are often inhaled.
There are also genetic factors, like a family history of cancer, that can play a role in a person developing lung cancer.
“We also know that healthy people can still get cancer,” Clark adds. “That’s why it’s so important to do screenings and be aware of changes in your body. Be assertive when talking to your doctor and mention little changes like waking up with a cough or any unusual pain.”
Exercising, eating more healthy foods and learning how to manage and control stress can help reduce the risk of developing most cancers, including lung cancer.
“I am encouraged by what the Roswell AIR program can do for the Hispanic community,” says Jomary Colon, a senior health referral specialist. “Lung cancer education and screening has not been a strong focus in minority communities, and I know firsthand how the lack of awareness and access to healthcare can affect a person’s life. This program will be a great resource for my community to help lower risk factors for lung cancer and increase cancer screening rates.”
The goal is for in-person and virtual meetings to start in November, with the AIR program continuing well beyond that, Clark says. “This will be part of the ongoing, staple, core education service we offer. Even if you don’t go through the education or watch the video and you want more information, we want people to know we’re always here to educate and help navigate you to services.”
To learn more about the Roswell Park AIR program or lung cancer risks, contact Nikia Clark at 716-845-4888 or Nikia.Clark@RoswellPark.org.
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