Beshear Pushing Initiative To Combat Cancer

Feb 28, 2012

Faced with some of the highest cancer death rates in the nation, Kentucky kicked off an initiative Tuesday aimed at providing free screenings to the uninsured.

Gov. Steve Beshear, accompanied by several of Kentucky's top physicians, announced the formation of the Kentucky Cancer Foundation that will raise money to cover the cost of lifesaving colon cancer screenings, pap smears, mammograms and smoking cessation programs.

Beshear has asked lawmakers to help fund the initiative by appropriating $1 million. The foundation would put up another $1 million.

"This is not nearly enough money," Beshear said. "We know that. But it is a start."

The governor considers the initiative a top priority because of the prevalence of cancer in Kentucky. The state sees more than 24,000 new cases of cancer each year. Some 9,500 Kentuckians die from cancer each year, most from lung, breast, cervical and colon cancers.

"This is a real problem in our state that is affecting the lives of every family," said Beshear, who had a bout with prostate cancer 18 years ago. "As a cancer survivor, I know firsthand that screenings and an early diagnosis will help save our citizens from this horrible disease."

Based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control, Kentucky is among the worst states in the nation for lung cancer. The state's lung cancer rate is 49 percent higher than the national average. The number of people dying from lung cancer is 47 percent higher than in the rest of the nation.

Kentucky also has one of the highest colon and rectal cancer death rates in the nation, according to the CDC.

"Having adequate funding for these needed screenings is the missing link between the uninsured and cancer prevention, early detection," said Dr. Whitney Jones, co-founder of the Kentucky Cancer Foundation. "That's why the mission of the foundation is so important to the future of Kentucky."