State of Cancer in Kentucky

Published: May. 30, 2016 at 6:53 PM EDT
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Cancer is no stranger to Kentucky, in fact the numbers are grim here. Kentucky leads the country in cancer deaths among lung, breast, colorectal and cervical cancer. Despite those tough statistics, we are making strides. WKYT's Amber Philpott sits down with the head of the Markey Cancer Center to talk about the ground being made and the state of cancer in Kentucky.

Two years ago Jacqueline Trigg was going through life just fine, serving others as a public transit driver.

"I've always been waiting for that big moment, you know when you work in the service industry you are always doing so much for other people," said Jacqueline Trigg.

Something big came, but not what she was planning for, she received some frightening news.

"By the time I got diagnosed I was relieved because I had been through so much pain, physical pain and mental anguish. Going to the doctors and no one could pinpoint it," said Trigg.

At 51, Trigg was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, she began her fight while becoming another statistic in Kentucky. Two years later she is taking life day by day.

"I feel like I've been through a storm, but I feel like its been a manageable storm," said Trigg.

"In Kentucky sadly more and more people like Trigg here the words you have cancer every day. Nearly 26,000 Kentuckians will be diagnosed just this year, " said WKYT's Amber Philpott.

Kentucky is the number one state in the U.S. for the highest cancer rates and deaths. At the top of the list, smoking related cancers, like lung cancer. Colorectal is also very high here. It's a grim reality, but one the director of the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky says his team is working to reverse.

"So I would say really it starts with prevention and education and we have a number of programs focused on our rural population to make sure that we get the word out about cancer and cancer related screenings," said Dr. Mark Evers, Director UK Markey Center.

The Markey Cancer Center has made strides with colon and lung screening projects, been granted nearly 43 million dollars in research related funds and its also partnering with 16 medical centers across the state to help provide high quality cancer care and bring programs to more areas. Slowly its starting to pay off.

"I really think we are starting to see the fruits of our labor and it doesn't mean we can let up, we really need to intensify those efforts as we go forward," said Dr. Evers.

As a cancer survivor Jacqueline Trigg has felt those efforts, she hopes one day their is a cure.

"I tell people all the time they are working miracles over there. I honestly believe that those people God has given them something, they are working through their passion. They are passionate about finding a cure," said Trigg.

Currently Markey is seeing five year survival rates for lung, brain, prostate, liver and ovarian cancers becoming higher than the national average.

Kentucky Cancer Link is kicking off a new campaign for the month of June called #Until. It is a way to promote awareness about cancer and help raise money for the cancer related services Kentucky Cancer Link provides.