Lung cancer mortality rates higher in Southern Illinois - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Lung cancer mortality rates higher in Southern Illinois

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CARTERVILLE -- Lung cancer remains the number two cause of death in southern Illinois, and the number of cases don't seem to show any improvement.

Cases in northern Illinois have dropped at a much faster rate than in the southern 16 counties.

90 year-old Gerri Simmons has undergone 33 radiation treatments since learning she was battling lung cancer back in February.

She was never a smoker, but she was married to one for decades. 

"I had a husband that smoked three packs a day, always. So I had second hand smoke," said Simmons

Studies show tobacco is the number one cause in all cases of lung cancer. 

"It's thought that 70 or 80, at least, percent of the cause of lung cancer is through cigarette smoking,” said Dr. Dave Steward with SIU’s School of Medicine.  

Which is a real problem here at home. One in four of those living in the seven southern counties are smokers.

That's something Dr. Steward says could by why those with lung cancer in our region are dying at a faster rate.

“The difference between the southern 16 counties and the rest of the state is about 40 percent. There is about a 40 percent higher death rate from lung cancer in that area than there is in the rest of the state,” explained Steward. 

Every single county in Southern Illinois has a higher rate of lung cancer than the national average.

Dr. Steward explained the survival rate for lung cancer is very poor because people aren't being screened like they should be so its often caught late.

“It's a very serious issue for the deep part of southern Illinois,” said Steward. 

Simmons feels lucky doctors caught her cancer at stage two. She's talked with smokers about how dangerous their behaviors are but says, “They are in denial. It won't happen to them. You make your bed, you lay in it.”

This isn't something she thought she'd be going through either.

Dr. Steward met with Southern Illinois' Cancer Action Team Tuesday at the Cancer Institute. The goal is to come up strategies to lower the number of lung cancer cases and to figure out how to inform the public about the importance of screenings.

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