Task force discusses lung cancer, outreach efforts
— The Cecil County Cancer Task Force came together this week to discuss ideas about how to get more people to quit smoking in a county that has one of the highest number of smokers in Maryland.
The task force, which is made up of officials from Union Hospital and the county’s health department as well as others, met on Wednesday in hopes of generating ideas about how to improve outreach regarding tobacco use, how to increase community involvement and how the task force can complete the objectives in the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), said Beth Money, director of oncology, infusion and bioethics at Union Hospital and a task force member.
“Community health objectives need to have Cecil County residents, business persons and those employed in area businesses help create and carry out the possible plans,” Money said.
Low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans, which are used to detect lung cancer early, are available at the hospital and at Open MRI & Imaging Center in Elkton and Perryville, Money said.
“We started a low-dose screening program because we are one of the highest smoking counties in the state of Maryland,” she noted.
Money said that 104 screenings have been performed since 2015 combined at all three sites and that 136 people were diagnosed with lung cancer from 2014-2015.
With the help of grant money, the county also offers free services for those trying to quit smoking such as self-help material, private consultations and other services, said Mary Ellen Rapposelli, an official with the county health department and a member of the task force. The county also offers pre-quitting sessions for those who are thinking about quitting smoking. The state also offers tobacco cessation services, like those at the hospital, in addition to coaches smokers can call, she added.
During the discussion, a cancer survivor and new member of the task force shared her recent experience with lung cancer.
“I had no idea I had cancer, but two years prior I noticed that I was getting really tired. I didn’t have any energy and I’m usually an energetic person that just bounces off the walls and it’s like ‘Oh god, I’m getting lazy,’” said Sherri King, a 53-year-old Elkton resident, who started smoking at age 15.
Three months after she quit smoking, King said was diagnosed with lung cancer. King had gone to the hospital because she thought she had pneumonia but the nurse looked at a chest scan taken and thought she might have cancer. From there, King went to her doctor and had tests done that confirmed the diagnosis.
King’s lower left lobe in her left lung was removed at at the University of Maryland’s Medical Center in March. Then from April to June, King underwent four chemotherapy treatments at Union Hospital, she said. During the chemotherapy, she gained weight and developed a condition which affects her feet and legs, she said.
King said she used a vape pen to help her quit.
“My main thing with smoking is having something in your hand,” King said. “So I bought the vape pen that you could hang around your neck, and when I’m driving down the road, it’s like that habit of picking something up. And I think that’s really helped me.”
King said she still has the urge to smoke when she smells it or sees others do it and has occasionally “cheated” and smoked a cigarette. But she has been able to stop herself from smoking by thinking about having a lung and a half.
King said she feels good about surviving the cancer.
“I feel pretty good that I was able to check it out in time,” she said.
The group then spoke about CHIP, a plan created by the hospital and county health department in conjunction with the Community Health Advisory Council to address public health problems identified through the Community Health Needs Assessment, Rapposelli said. The group will focus on the plan’s second priority, which is chronic disease, and will focus on respiratory and lung disease.
The task force broke up into two groups to brainstorm ideas. One group brainstormed ideas to promote the low-dose lung CT screening program with providers and patients while the second group worked on how to make people more aware of local and statebased resources for quitting smoking. Then the groups switched and came up with ideas for the other activity.
“I was very pleased with the meeting and the new ideas being presented and the presence of so many who want to work collaboratively to reduce smoking and lower the incidence of lung cancer in this community,” Money said.
The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at Union Hospital in Meeting Room 2.
The county’s cancer task force is currently brainstorming ways to get more people in Cecil County to quit smoking.