BUFFALO, N.Y. — Concerning disparities exist in who is getting lung cancer in Western New York. Black residents in the eight-county area have the highest incidence of lung cancer as well as the most deaths from the disease. A team from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center outlined a strategy to address those unequal outcomes — and successfully competed for a national grant to put that strategy to work in our community.
With lung cancer at the top of cancer-related deaths in Western New York — and at a rate higher than all of New York state — these experts from Roswell Park’s Community Outreach and Engagement team has been awarded funding from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the only U.S.-based nonprofit organization solely dedicated to cancer prevention and early detection.
The one-year, $25,000 grant is one of only 10 awarded nationwide to implement initiatives to prevent cancer in underserved populations.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths across all racial and ethnic groups in Western New York, notes Roswell Park’s Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, MA, Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control.
The incidence of lung cancer is higher in Western New York than in the rest of the state and across the United States. In our eight-county region, it causes 50 deaths per 100,000, compared with the New York State rate of 37.1 deaths per 100,000 and the U.S. rate of 41.9 deaths per 100,000.
Incidence and deaths from lung cancer are higher among Blacks in Western New York than for any other racial group — 85.5 per 100,000 people and 58.7 among every 100,000, respectively. And area whites and Hispanics aren’t far behind in these categories: The incidence rate for white residents is 74.3 per 100,000 and for Hispanic residents, 49.6 per 100,000. The number of deaths for white residents is 50 per 100,000 and for Hispanic residents, it is 26.4 per 100,000.
Senior Health Referral Specialist
These alarming statistics drove Dr. Bouchard and two colleagues — Jomary Colon, Senior Health Referral Specialist, and Nikia Clark, Health Education Specialist — to create the Roswell AIR (Awareness, Information and Resources) for Lung-Cancer Screening program, which partners with the community to reduce barriers to lung-cancer screening among underserved communities in Western New York, especially Blacks, Hispanics and senior citizens.
The Prevent Cancer grant will help the Roswell Park team to deepen its relationships with those at high risk for lung cancer. The funding also allows them to navigate eligible residents to lung-cancer screening and provide information to broad audiences about ways to lower risk for the disease.
“We’re excited about the opportunity for enhanced community partnerships, increased knowledge and awareness about lung cancer among participants, and for greater numbers of eligible residents to get recommended lung cancer screening,” Clark says.
The program is offered in English and Spanish. Clark and Colon will conduct the program virtually and, when possible, in person throughout Western New York.
“There are a lot of barriers that contribute to the disparities we see in our community’s experience of lung cancer,” says Clark. “Lack of awareness about lung-cancer screening, unfamiliarity with screening eligibility guidelines, and worry, fear and the stigma around lung cancer — all of these are contributing to poor outcomes, and they’re all factors we can do something about.”
Dr. Bouchard notes that while Roswell Park offers a specialized screening program for those at high risk for developing lung cancer, too few people who are eligible for these screenings seek them out from any provider.
“We see much better awareness of other opportunities for cancer screening and early detection, especially with mammography,” Bouchard says. “Our goal with this new program is to build that kind of awareness for lung cancer.”