Lung Cancer Impacts in Southern Illinois
November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), smoking cigarettes contributes to 80%-90% of all lung cancer deaths. The lung cancer mortality rate in Southern Illinois (66.4 people per 100,000) is almost twice the national mortality rate of 39.1 people. One guaranteed way to help prevent lung cancer is by taking the crucial step of quitting.
The Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday of each November, is hosted by the American Cancer Society for people to commit to living a smoke-free, healthy life. Quitting smoking brings health benefits within the first 24 hours: heart rate, blood pressure and carbon monoxide levels return to normal, heart attack risk decreases and oxygen levels in the blood increase (Illinois Tobacco Quitline). In addition to health benefits and lung cancer prevention, quitting smoking saves money and allows people to be present for life’s sweet moments. Secondhand and thirdhand smoke can impact non-smokers, increasing their risk of lung cancer; there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It can be a difficult journey to give up smoking tobacco, but it can be made easier with a plan and support.
Dr. Matt Winkleman, a family practitioner at SIH Primary Care in Harrisburg, encourages his patients to quit smoking whenever they can. It can be challenging, so he recommends the buddy system. “It’s always a great idea to try and have someone that you’re going to quit with, so there’s a little bit of accountability.”
SIH has partnered with the Healthy Southern Illinois Delta Network (HSIDN) to create the Southern Illinois Tobacco Disparities Partnership. They work closely with local organizations to create tobacco-related policy, systems and environmental changes in Southern Illinois. This includes assisting people who want to stop smoking by offering Courage to Quit classes. Courage to Quit provides information, practice skills, and support for anyone looking to quit smoking. These classes help build an individualized plan for each person, because everyone’s journey is different. The first class will be held on December 1 in the SIH Community Classroom in the Carbondale SIH Outpatient Rehabilitaion facility and is free to anyone who would like to participate. Register now by calling (618) 457.5200 ext. 67837 or by visiting www.hsidn.org/couragetoquit. People can also find help with the Illinois Tobacco Quit Line by calling 1 (866) 784.8937.
Over 23% of adults in Southern Illinois report being a current smoker, while only 11.5% adults smoke tobacco nationwide (American Lung Association, 2023). It’s important to be screened for lung cancer if you have a history of smoking. Dr. Winkleman encourages patients to talk to their primary care provider about a low-dose CT scan. The scan takes detailed images of the lungs, isn't painful and only takes a few minutes. Screening is available at multiple SIH locations and can find lung cancer when it’s more treatable. Make sure to talk to your primary care provider about lung cancer screening.
Becoming and staying smoke-free has incredible health benefits for you and everyone in your life. SIH is committed to improving the health and well-being of the entire Southern Illinois community and is here to aid your journey to quit smoking. To enroll in a Courage to Quit class and learn more, visit www.hsidn.org/couragetoquit or call (618) 457-5200 ext. 67837.