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Cancer Rates Are Dropping -- But Not In Rural Appalachia

 3 years ago       131 Views

Cancer Rates Are Dropping — But Not In Rural Appalachia.

In rural Appalachian Kentucky, the cancer mortality rate is 36 percent higher than it is for urban, non-Appalachian people in the rest of the country; in rural Appalachian Virginia it is 15 percent higher; in those areas of West Virginia, 19 percent.

“There are layers of risk for people to die early from cancer.” Although people outside of Appalachia may not know about the region’s cancer crisis, researchers and community organizations in the region have been studying and fighting cancer for decades, focusing efforts on four cancers with the highest incidence and mortality rates: lung, colorectal, cervical and breast.

Research out of West Virginia University has shown that mortality rates and chronic illnesses were higher in coal-producing counties, and a study comparing two West Virginia counties showed that cancer rates were 5 percentage points higher in a county with surface mining than in one without.

The risk for lung cancer among coal miners who spend time underground or on strip mining operations in Appalachia is also higher.

However, the biggest issue, experts said, is lack of access to care — whether it’s preventive screenings or cancer treatment.

For instance, mammograms are only offered once a month at the clinics, and colon cancer screenings are referred out of the county, and cervical cancer screenings are done weekly at the health department and daily at the clinic, Lucas said.

The Markey Cancer Center in Lexington is a far drive for people in rural Appalachia.

By late 2016, there were only 3,600 coal mining jobs left in eastern Kentucky and just over 6,200 statewide, numbers not seen since the late 1800s.

In 2016, about 67 percent of people in Owsley County got health coverage through Medicaid, which covers preventive cancer screenings and helps cover rides to necessary treatment for people who can’t travel, Lucas said.

Author: Lyndsey Gilpin


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