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February 7, 2012 

Collaboration to Study Disparities in Lung Cancer Treatments in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH) Cancer Institute in Carbondale and the Illinois State Cancer Registry will collaborate on a two-year study that will explore disparities in the treatment of lung cancer in southern Illinois. SIH Cancer Institute is an affiliate of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU. 

Studies have shown that lung cancer mortality rates and cases of lung cancer are higher in southern Illinois than other Illinois counties.
Dr. David Steward, chair of the internal medicine department at SIU, is the principal investigator for the $249,998 project that is funded by the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division. 

The two-year project, “Collaboration to Reduce Lung Cancer Disparities in Southern Illinois Delta,” will include the 16 most southern counties in Illinois: Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, White and Williamson.

“On behalf of the HealthySI (Southern Illinois) Delta Network, we are elated with the news of the award of this important funding. The research will be an integral part of addressing lung cancer disparities that exist in our region. In Franklin County alone, lung cancer mortality rates and cases of lung cancer that are diagnosed at a later stage have long been higher than even surrounding counties. We are looking at groundbreaking work here that will mean earlier diagnosis and longer life,” said Robin Koehl, administrator of Franklin/Williamson Bi-County Health.

An additional benefit to the collaborative lung cancer study is the ability to identify other cancers that may be occurring more often or are causing a disproportionate number of bad outcomes in the area, and then design specific actions to address these problems.

“A subsequent part of the study focuses on working with existing community coalitions to identify barriers that might prevent people in the region from getting proper attention for medical issues that might be related to cancer,” Steward said.

SIU School of Medicine will also work with SIH to support a lung nodule evaluation program to ensure that suspicious lesions found on CT scans (computerized tomography that provides a 3-D view of bones and soft tissue) get appropriate diagnostic evaluation and treatment.

“We hope the result is that, by finding lung cancers at an early stage, these patients can receive treatment that may cure them, rather than letting some early cancers spread and become less treatable,” Steward added.

The SIH Cancer Institute Lung Cancer Team has long noted how often patients with the disease do not follow through with diagnostic efforts prior to their diagnosis being made, according to Dr. Mary Rosenow, medical director. 

“This grant will make it possible for the group to achieve its goal of establishing the Pulmonary Nodule Clinic, where patients can be seen by specialists at the very first sign of a problem, and where a navigator and office staff will track every patient from the start to the finish of the evaluation. We are grateful for the award of this grant,” Rosenow added.

The mission of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer needs through education, research, patient care and community service. Its website is www.siumed.edu/cancer.

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