LEXINGTON Kentucky has the highest rate of new cancers and the highest death rate for all cancers combined in the US. Kentucky ranks #1 in the US in the incidence and death rates from lung cancer, #1 in the incidence rate for colon cancer, and #4 in the death rate for colon cancer. The Appalachian region of the state has among the highest cancer incidence and mortality in the US, with rates especially high for lung, colorectal, and cervical cancers. “Patient navigators can help Kentuckians get screened for cancer – finding it early can save your life,” says CDC Director Tom Freiden, MD, MPH.
Founded in 2008, Kentucky CancerLink is a 5013c not-for-profit whose mission is to provide support to Kentuckians by reducing and/or eliminating barriers to screening, diagnosis, and treatment for all cancers. Kentucky CancerLink (KCL) serves uninsured/underinsured or newly insured Kentuckians whose household income is at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level guidelines. Many of the newly insured have obtained insurance through expanded Medicaid and they have little or no experience with medical facilities, their programs, and procedures.
Programs provided by KCL are:
Community outreach and education on the importance and availability of cancer screenings;
Assisting qualified patients in obtaining low-cost/no-cost cancer screenings;
Providing assistance to cancer survivors during and after completion of cancer treatment.
KCL’s certified patient navigators provide education and outreach at Kentucky health fairs and other community events in Kentucky to promote the value of early cancer detection. Patient referrals are received as a result of KCL outreach, patient self-referrals, and referrals from family members, friends, healthcare professionals, the KCL web site, and other communications.
In collaboration with healthcare providers throughout the state, KCL navigators assist patients in obtaining evidence-based cancer screenings such as breast, cervical, colon, and lung cancer screenings; and navigators follow up with patients after the completion of screenings. KCL activities vary depending upon the type of cancer, programs available, and collaborative partners. KCL navigators help reduce barriers for Kentucky cancer survivors who are receiving cancer treatment by providing assistance relating to transportation, childcare, health insurance, and other personal and financial issues. KCL also provides cancer-related supplies, such as mastectomy items, lymphedema garments, wigs, and headwear, to cancer survivors at no charge. Since 2008, KCL has served over 8,100 Kentuckians in all 120 counties. Types of patient navigation assistance provided to cancer patients varies based on the needs and situation of each patient.
KCL’s mission is unique. Our relationships with the clients and community partners are innovative, highly productive, and focused on improving health outcomes of Kentuckians. KCL certified patient navigators collaborate with the patient’s healthcare team, often working with physicians, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, case managers, health insurance companies, and a myriad of other resources as they guide the patient and family through a complex healthcare continuum.
KCL navigators have been certified through the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute and the George Washington Cancer Institute. Patient navigators identify patients’ barriers to cancer screenings and cancer care. They educate and advocate for their patients/clients about issues that impact their healthcare, such as helping the patient find a medical home/family physician, obtain no-cost/low-cost medicines, provide assistance related to transportation to cancer screenings and treatment, childcare, and other relevant personal and financial issues. Navigators utilize KCL and external services and resources to help individuals become healthier and live longer, improving patients’ health outcomes while reducing healthcare costs for the population.
KCL has established patient referral systems and collaborative programs with healthcare organizations such as the UK Markey Cancer Center and its affiliates, KentuckyOne Health, Baptist Health, Kentucky Federally Qualified Health Centers, Kentucky free clinics, and others. Please visit our website, www.kycancerlink.org for additional information.