A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky cancer deaths remain among highest in nation according to latest CDC report

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show Kentucky continues have among the worst cancer rates in the nation – with lung, colorectal, breast and cervical cancer making up the majority of cancer deaths.

More than 30,000 Kentuckians will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

According to the CDC, 5% fewer Americans were screened for cancer in 2020 than in 2012, a difference that represents nearly 4 million people. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

Groups that are part of the Kentucky Partnership for Health Improvement say they’re working to identify gaps and barriers that may cause people to miss recommended cancer screenings.

Allison Adams, chief operating officer of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said lack of insurance and high co-pay costs, along with transportation, pose challenges.

“Some people don’t live near medical offices,” said Adams. “That makes it more difficult to get cancer screenings. And also, locations are usually only open during traditional workday hours.”

The CDC says the number of Americans screened for cancer decreased from, about 27% in 2012 to around 21% in 2020 – a more than five percentage point decrease that represents nearly 4 million people.

Adams pointed to policies that should help increase screening, including a new law establishing biomarker-testing coverage requirements for health-benefit plans – tests that help doctors customize cancer treatment.

“Breast cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer, cervical cancer,” said Adams, “those cancers that are caught earlier have the best opportunity for treatment. The Partnership for Health Improvement wants to focus on those barriers.”

The American Association for Cancer Research estimates the nation’s total cancer-care costs will reach more than $245 billion by 2030.

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