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Baptist’s lung cancer initiative aims to decrease deaths by 25 percent in nine years

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 5:13 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Doctors call the Mid-South the lung cancer mortality belt.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. While in recent years many regions are seeing declines in lung cancer deaths, the story in the Mid-South isn’t the same.

However, doctors in Memphis hope to soon change the story, as a new initiative by the Baptist Cancer Center aims to cut lung cancer deaths by 25 percent by 2030.

Collierville resident Cindy Lesley fought for years to rid her body of stage four lung cancer. Her treatments took her from Houston to Nashville.

“I was in disbelief because I was not sick, I didn’t cough, I didn’t have what you would think the signs are,” Lesley said.

Finally, Lesley started treatment at Baptist Cancer Center. Following her treatment, she’s been cancer free for more than five years.

“I went to several places seeking the positive outcome I desired and that positive outcome was right here at home in Memphis,” Lesley said.

Doctors at Baptist Cancer Center are hoping to make that positive outcome accessible to more people. Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee rank as second, third and fourth respectively in the U.S. with the most lung cancer deaths.

Dr. Raymond Osarogiagbon, chief scientist and director of Baptist Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program, called the area the lung cancer mortality belt.

“Necessity has forced us to invent better ways to prevent, identify, treat and mange patients as long term survivors of lung cancer,” Dr. Osarogiagbon said.

Baptist Cancer Center announced seven programs method called the Mid-South Miracle on Thursday. Doctors believe disseminating these methods and programs can cut lung cancer deaths in the region by 25 percent by 2030.

Things like higher rates of smoking and medically underserved communities have made lung cancer a problem in the Mid-South. Reasons doctors believe it’s even more important to have world class treatment in Mid Southerners’ backyard.

“[Mid-Southerners] don’t have to jump on a plane and go to some fancy institution on the east or west coast or wherever they may traditionally imagine,” Dr. Osarogiagbon said. “They can be home with their loved ones because all healthcare is local.”

The seven programs start with lessons to decrease tobacco use and end with clinical trials.

In between, doctors have expanded the screening process to include routine low-level CT scans for people with a certain history and an even more successful incidental lung nodule screening so the cancer is caught early. After the initial diagnosis, the plan goes to improved levels of multidisciplinary care, then high quality surgery and customized diagnosis.

It’s a Mid-South Miracle doctors hope will help people around the world.

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