UAB, partners working to reach Alabamians most at-risk for lung cancer

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center is working in partnership with Lung Cancer Alliance to reach underserved Alabamians who are most at-risk for lung cancer.

Through the newly formed Alabama Lung Cancer Awareness, Screening and Education program, the groups will work to improve knowledge and awareness of lung cancer and increase lung cancer screenings in six rural Black Belt counties — Sumter, Green, Hale, Marengo, Choctaw and Dallas — as well as in Jefferson County.

A $1.6 million, three-year grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is funding the initiative, according to the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women across the United States, killing more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. In Alabama, lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths and is No. 3 in the number of new cases diagnosed each year.

The new program combines Lung Cancer Alliance’s expertise in lung cancer screening and expands the Cancer Center’s successful Deep South Network Community Health Advisor model to decrease lung cancer disparities in underserved Black Belt counties and in Jefferson County, according to the Cancer Center. The purpose of the program is to encourage participation and increase screenings by providing community-based support to local health care facilities.

“As the only (National Cancer Institute) NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Deep South, UAB has an obligation to address our region’s cancer burden,” said Michael J. Birrer, director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. Lung cancer screening holds the greatest promise for finding the disease early, when the possibility of a cure is greatest. However, only 4 percent of individuals nationally are screened for lung cancer each year.

“There is a great lack of awareness about the potential benefits of screenings and, for many, a reluctance to engage in the screening process,” he continued. “We hope using the successful CHA (Deep South Network Community Health Advisor) model will help improve screening rates among these at-risk individuals.”

The CHA model is a proven, community-based health promotion approach that identifies and trains “natural helpers” from the community who then seek to improve the health status of individuals from that community, according to the Cancer Center. For more than 20 years, the Cancer Center’s Deep South Network has trained more than 1,200 CHAs and has had significant success in the areas of breast, cervical and colon cancers. ALCASE expands the use of these trusted and trained community leaders to lung cancer.

ALCASE program leaders will partner with existing community resources, like Alabama’s smoking cessation programs, identify Screening Centers of Excellence, and provide financial and transportation assistance to help eligible individuals access and afford lung cancer screenings.

The Cancer Center will begin recruiting and training up to 150 CHAs in the seven-county program area in February 2019. “We are recruiting men and women of all races and backgrounds over the age of 19 to join us in these efforts,” said Claudia Hardy, director of Community Outreach in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Community Outreach Staff will host events in the targeted counties in the month of November to bring awareness of November as Lung Cancer Awareness Month and to introduce the ALCASE program to the communities.

Nov. 5: Hale County

11 a.m.-noon at the Third Street Church of God (Fellowship Hall), 1102 Third Street, Greensboro.

Nov. 7: Sumter County

Noon-1 p.m. at the Sumter County Health Department Conference Room, 1121 North Washington Street, Livingston.

Nov. 8: Jefferson County

10-11 a.m. at the JCCEO Headquarters, 300 Eighth Ave. W, Birmingham.

Nov. 8: Marengo County

1-2 p.m. at the Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital Conference Room, 105 Highway 80 East, Demopolis.

Nov. 8: Greene County

10-11 a.m. at the Green County Health Department, 412 Morrow Ave., Eutaw.

Nov. 9: Choctaw County

9 a.m.-noon at Choctaw General Hospital, 401 Vanity Fair Drive, Butler.

To learn more about the ALCASE program, community events or becoming a community health advisor, contact Claudia Hardy at 205-975-5454 or

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