Lung Cancer Awareness Month has pbaded (November), but it is still a good time to reflect on the magnitude and impact of this disease. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in men and women in the United States. UU., And its cost in Maine is tremendous. Our state has the sixth highest rate of lung cancer incidence in the nation.
The Maine Lung Cancer Coalition ((https://mainelungcancercoalition.org/) is a multi-year project that aims to raise awareness about lung cancer and decrease the impact of the disease on Maine people. simple: reduce risks, detect cancer early and improve patient outcomes.
It is imperative that principals understand the factors that contribute to lung cancer to minimize risk.Tobacco smoking remains the leading preventable cause of cancer. Lung, which accounts for about 80 percent of the cases, anyone can get lung cancer.Environmental factors, such as exposure to radon gas, environmental smoke and air pollution are also important risk factors.  The best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to reduce tobacco use. The rate of smoking in Maine high schools is 33 percent higher than than the national average. The adult rate is 27 percent higher.
For years, Maine w as a leader in tobacco prevention efforts, which resulted in a decrease in smoking rates. However, state legislators have diverted tobacco settlement funds from prevention efforts to fill other budget holes. It is not surprising that progress has stalled. Those most affected by these policy changes are residents living in rural counties, who have disproportionately high rates of smoking and death from lung cancer, among the highest in the nation.
Fortunately, we know how to improve, as we have
Maine lawmakers must reverse the cut funding for the tobacco prevention program approved earlier this year and invest in proven methods that reduce smoking rates.
Tobacco tax increases continue to be the most effective tool to promote the abandonment of smoking and prevent its initiation among young people. Maine raised the tax for the last time in 2005, giving the state the highest tax in the Northeast. But Maine has not kept up, and now has the second lowest tax. We owe it to our children to do everything possible to make sure they never become addicted to nicotine, and to all smokers to help them quit smoking.
Early detection of lung cancer is also important.
Too many people are not aware of a new life-saving tool called low-dose CT (LDCT): a special x-ray scan that can detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is more tractable. The LDCT test is recommended for people at high risk, between 55 and 80 years with a significant history of smoking, who currently smoke or have quit smoking in the last 15 years.
Like all screening tests, LDCT is not perfect; It can cause false alarms and not everyone benefits from it. But it can save lives and eligible people should have the opportunity to decide if it makes sense to them. Currently, most private insurers and Medicare cover LDCT exams, however, MaineCare does not cover them. Maine lawmakers can correct that coverage gap by funding the LD 720, which was overwhelmingly approved in both houses in the last session.
It is estimated that 9 million Americans are eligible for the exam. Projecting only half of them would save 15,000 lives. The Maine Lung Cancer Coalition is working to promote access to screening for high quality lung cancer in Maine. As we enter our second year of work, we have successfully brought together health providers from across the state to share best practices and make badessments accessible to Mainers. People can visit the "Saved by the Scan" initiative of the American Lung Association at www.SavedByTheScan.org for more information on detection.
Every two and a half minutes to one person in the US UU You are diagnosed with lung cancer. About 1,400 Mainers will be diagnosed this year. But this terrible disease remains in the shadows and is not treated adequately by the health system or the research community.
We are working to reverse this situation, using every strategy we know to prevent lung cancer, detect it early and provide the highest quality treatment possible for those with the disease.
With the help of lawmakers in Augusta to address the tobacco epidemic and gaps in coverage of lung cancer screening, we can make great strides in fighting this disease.
Paul Han, MD, MA, MPH, is the principal investigator and co-leader of the Maine Lung Cancer Coalition, a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, statewide initiative to improve cancer prevention, early detection and treatment of lung in Maine.