Study finds a community awareness campaign increased uptake of low-dose CT scan, which can detect lung cancer early

A community awareness campaign in Eastern Kentucky about a low-dose CT scan that detects lung cancer early has increased uptake of the procedure and prompted individuals to consider quitting tobacco, says a University of Kentucky news release.

Researchers in UK’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and College of Public Health developed the campaign to educate patients and health-care providers about early cancer detection through a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan, which is the latest recommendation for people who have a high risk of getting lung cancer.

A low-dose CT scan is recommended for people aged 55 to 77 who are either current smokers, have quit smoking within the last 15 years or who have smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years, or the equivalent. These scans reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent, says the release.

Lung cancer is especially deadly because it often doesn’t cause symptoms until it’s too late. It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and is expected to kill 158,000 Americans this year alone, according to the American Lung Association.

Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the nation, 25.9 percent. It has the highest rate of lung cancer (93.4 per 100,000) and the highest death rate from it (69.5 per 100,000) in the nation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Kentucky, these rates are highest in the Appalachian region of the state.

The “Terminate Lung Cancer” campaign focused on two high-need Eastern Kentucky regions.

Researchers worked to align the efforts of community health workers, local health agencies and regional hospitals. They provided more than 54,000 residents in the targeted regions with information about the procedure that encouraged them to talk about it with their health care provider. They also told health care providers in the targeted areas about the new guidelines, what the procedure entailed, and that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will pay for the scan.

To analyze the impact of the campaign, researchers collected survey data and records from three partner hospitals to analyze changes in behaviors and monthly totals of chest low-dose CT scans for malignancies.

The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, found the people who received campaign materials reported higher uptake and awareness of low-dose CT scans than the control region population.

“It can take several years before screening guidelines reach the people who need these health services the most,” Dr. Roberto Cardarelli, principal investigator and chief of the Division of Community Medicine, said in the news release. “We wanted to know whether a population-based campaign that emphasized community engagement would reduce a knowledge gap limiting patients from receiving screening and detecting cancer early. Our results support this approach, showing an effective strategy for addressing the knowledge gap about LDCT in high-risk populations.”

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