BRISTOL MYERS SQUIBB FOUNDATION
Spreading the word
Kentucky LEADS is bringing doctors up to speed on new tools and treatments
Evelyn Watkins knew something was wrong for about a year before she was diagnosed. At first, her doctor thought it was depression. Evelyn shook her head, refused the pills. Months later, she returned with a racking cough and he diagnosed pneumonia.
“About a year goes by. Finally, he gives me a PET scan,” she says. “This is what I wound up with. Lung cancer. Stage 4. He said, ‘We’ll give you four months.’”
That was six years ago. “It’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings,” she says. “She’s on the front porch, but I’m not letting her in.”
Evelyn feels lucky to have beaten the odds of one of the most aggressive cancers. Others like her have not been so lucky. Some lose precious time to the diagnostic process. Many run out of time. Some never get treatment at all.
“One of our principal investigators found a substantial percentage of those [diagnosed with lung cancer] were not referred for treatment,” says Angela Criswell, medical outreach manager for the Lung Cancer Alliance and a field coordinator for Kentucky LEADS. “Why?”
Kentucky LEADS is methodically bringing primary care providers up to speed on the broadening spectrum of lung cancer care and control, including advances in CT screening that can catch lung cancer while it’s still treatable. As the tools and resources for lung cancer rapidly advance, it can be of little use to patients if their doctors don’t know about them.
“We don’t have time to allow these innovations to filter down into common practice slowly like they typically do,” says Jamie Studts, principal investigator for Kentucky LEADS. “Our primary care physicians set forth the trajectory of care, and we’re making sure that they’re aware of all these innovations in care.”
-Jamie Studts, principal investigator for Kentucky LEADS
Through online platforms, continuing medical education programs and aggressive communication, Kentucky LEADS is systematically spreading information on new research, treatment options, procedures and resources to doctors in every corner of the state. From interactive online courses and screening order forms to shared-decision-making checklists, the resources are available at no cost to all primary care physicians and nurse practitioners in Kentucky. Keeping providers up to speed should improve the quality of patient care and the referrals for screening, according to Studts.
“This demystifies and explains the options,” says Angela Criswell, medical outreach manager for the Lung Cancer Alliance and a field coordinator for Kentucky LEADS. “Because of the high mortality rate, even doctors assumed it was a death sentence. But the universe has shifted when it comes to lung cancer care.”
The Kentucky LEADS Collaborative—Lung Cancer Education, Awareness, Detection and Survivorship—is funded by the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation as part of the Bridging Cancer Care initiative to expand the limited scope of community-based resources and survivorship support programs to underserved populations in the U.S. Kentucky LEADS addresses the full spectrum of lung cancer care with three main components: provider education, survivorship care and early detection. Through provider education, Kentucky LEADS is equipping primary care providers with the information and tools necessary to offer quality lung cancer care to patients.