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Moving Kentucky Ahead of the Cancer Curve

Moving Kentucky Ahead of the Cancer Curve

September 06, 2021 Posted in: Cancer Care


More than 30,000 new cases of cancer and 10,000 cancer deaths are expected in Kentucky this year, according to the American Cancer Society. But these statistics could change for the better if people commit to having regular cancer screenings. At CHI Saint Joseph Health, we’ve expanded our affiliation with Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center to bring world-class care closer to home for more Kentuckians.

Breast Cancer: Shelly Koch, screening supervisor, CHI Saint Joseph Health – Breast Care Center, the Women’s Hospital at Saint Joseph East

The idea of a mammogram may strike discomforting thoughts in the minds of some women, but the 15-minute screening could be a lifesaver. Our Breast Care Center, a National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, offers 3D mammography to all patients.

This sophisticated screening option is designed to detect cancerous breast tissue better than traditional mammography.

“If we can find cancer early, it changes everything,” Koch said. “With the technology as it is today, we can detect cancers when they are a couple of millimeters in size, which is phenomenal.”

Screening mammograms are often recommended annually, beginning at age 40, but patients with a strong family history of breast cancer may start screening mammograms earlier. If breast cancer is discovered, our multidisciplinary, patient-centered tumor board will thoroughly discuss each case and develop the best course of care. When detected early, in a localized state, the five-year survival rate is 99%, according to the ACS. That’s why regular screening is so important. “Do not be tempted to skip a year,” Koch said. 

Shelly Koch

Cervical CancerCarmen Folmar, MD, FACOG, OB‑GYN at CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Obstetrics & Gynecology in Bardstown

According to Dr. Folmar, cervical cancer is rare in the population of patients she treats, a fact that she attributes to women staying up to date with their health appointments.

“The incidence of cervical cancer in this country is decreasing due to Pap smear screening and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination,” Dr. Folmar said. “Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that is actually preventable through a combination of these two modalities.”

A proactive appointment schedule to detect and prevent cervical cancer may include:

  • Cervical cancer screening beginning at age 21 for all women with a cervix
  • Repeated screening every three years if previous tests are normal
  • HPV co-testing begins at age 30, with repeated testing every five years if results are normal

If screening suggests that cervical cancer is present, diagnostic testing, including a cervical biopsy, can be done during an in-office visit with your healthcare provider. 

Carmen Folmar

Colon Cancer: Kathleen Martin, MD, Saint Joseph Hospital, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Gastroenterology in Lexington

Getting a colonoscopy may not be high on your list of priorities this summer, but if you are 45 or older, you should add the appointment to your list of important to-dos.

“Colon cancer is the most common cancer I see, and I find about one each week,” Dr. Martin said. “I often find it in people with no symptoms who are coming in for a routine screening at the recommendation of a primary care provider. The good thing about finding colon cancer during a screening is that these cancers are often in the earliest stages and are very curable. If you find colon cancer early enough, there is an 85% to 90% cure rate.”

During this screening, your doctor will look for cancer and can prevent cancer by removing existing polyps. If nothing is found during your colonoscopy, it may be 10 years before another screening is recommended. 

Kathleen Martin

Lung Cancer: Hawa Edriss, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Pulmonology in Lexington

Lung cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in the U.S. and highly prevalent in Kentucky, with more than 2,600 deaths expected in 2021.

“Roughly 90% of lung cancer is related to smoking, and a lot of people smoke here,” Dr. Edriss said. “Screening with a low-dose CT scan is easy and painless and can find lung cancer at stage 1 or 2 as opposed to stage 3 or 4. This is critically important. If you wait to get screened until you are symptomatic, you are likely at stage 4 with limited treatment options and a low survival rate.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual low-dose CT screenings if you are 50 to 80 years old, have a 20-pack-year smoking history, and smoke currently or have stopped smoking within the past 15 years. 

Hawa Edriss

Prostate Cancer: Paul Rober, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Urology in Lexington

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is the standard screening test for prostate cancer. However, deciding to have this type of screening is a decision that should be made with your physician.

“The drawback of a PSA test is that elevated PSA levels may not be due to prostate cancer,” Dr. Rober said. “The evaluation of someone with elevated PSA levels has risks associated with it, so it is important to balance the risk of a false positive test versus the risk of missing someone with a cancer you can treat.”

Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening if you are a man who is:

  • Age 50 with an average risk for prostate cancer and have a life expectancy of at least 10 more years
  • Age 45 and in a high-risk group, such as Black men and men with a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65
  • Age 40 and in an extremely high-risk group, especially if you have multiple first-degree relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer at a young age
Paul Rober

Call 844.940.HOPE (4673) or visit to schedule your cancer screening. 

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.


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