PADUCAH — With November recognized as Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital in Paducah is soon hosting an educational event for the community to learn about what causes lung cancer and advances in lung cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month Community Education event will be held outside the Borders Community Room at the Marshall Nemer Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday in Paducah.

The hospital will be hosting the MEGA Lungs exhibit, a large-scale, interactive, education model of the lungs where people can walk through and learn about risks, symptoms, nature and causes of various pulmonary diseases. Experts will be there to answer questions from the community and share more information on lung health.

Dr. Mohamad Khoudoud, a Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital pulmonologist, will also speak at a free Lunch & Learn event at noon, where guests will be provided a free light lunch and learn about updates in lung health. Some of the topics he will address include tools to quit smoking, advances in lung cancer screening, advances in lung cancer diagnosis and advancement in treatment options for lung cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, Kentucky had the highest rate of new lung cancer cases and rate of lung cancer deaths in the nation.

“It’s a big crisis here,” John Montville, executive director of Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital’s oncology service line, told The Paducah Sun.

CDC data from 2020 also showed Kentucky had the second-highest prevalence of current smokers in the nation only behind West Virginia. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 84% of women and 90% of men with a new lung cancer diagnosis either smoke or used to smoke.

Part of the purpose of Thursday’s event, in addition to encouraging people to quit smoking to improve their health, is to inform the community of recent developments in lung cancer screening that could help people get diagnosed earlier and get treatment in the early stages of cancer. Any cancer is potentially treatable if doctors can catch it early, Montville said.

For decades, Montville said by the time people developed symptoms of lung cancer, such as a bad cough or shortness of breath, and went to the doctor to have it checked out, patients usually already had later-stage lung cancer, decreasing the patient’s chances of survival.

In recent years, Montville said a new diagnostic tool called a low dose computed tomography (CT) was developed and can help doctors find possible lung cancer tumors in earlier stages before it has a chance to spread throughout the body.

This treatment helped patient Bob Bomgardner, who sought medical treatment after his wife encouraged him to see a doctor when he developed a bad cough. Bomgardner, who was a smoker at the time, qualified for low dose CT screening where doctors found two nodules on his lungs.

After having surgery to determine if the nodules were cancerous, doctors determined Bomgardner indeed developed lung cancer, but it was in Stage 1, meaning it had not yet spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

“[Cardiothoracic surgeon] Dr. [Robert] Poston said my wife saved my life. I’ve been fairly lucky. Everything went very well, and I benefited from the earlier screening. If it wouldn’t have been done, I wouldn’t be here,” Bomgardner told Mercy Health communications staff.

In 2021, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force expanded its recommended population for low dose CT screening to those ages 50-80 years old who have a 20-pack year smoking history and either currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.

In addition to Thursday’s event, Montville said Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital regularly provides free seven-week classes to try to help people quit smoking.

Follow Hannah Saad on Twitter, @ByHannahSaad or on Facebook at facebook.com/hannahsaadpaducahsun.