OKLAHOMA CITY — This World Lung Cancer Day, Aug. 1, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is urging Oklahomans to quit tobacco using its free resources and highlighting the importance of lung cancer screening for early detection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cigarette smoking is the No. 1 risk factor for lung cancer and is associated with 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer.

“The Helpline is a free resource for Oklahomans thinking about quitting tobacco with a 95 percent approval rating from Oklahomans who have used the program,” said TSET Executive Director Julie Bisbee. “Assisting those struggling with nicotine addiction is where we can make an impact by saving lives and preventing years of unnecessary pain and suffering associated with chronic diseases like lung cancer.”

According to the American Lung Association, the annual rate of new lung cancer cases in Oklahoma is 67.7 per 100,000 residents, totaling around 3,000 new cases each year. This is significantly higher than the national rate. Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths with most cases undiagnosed until later stages, when the disease is less curable. In Oklahoma, only 19.8 percent of cases are caught at an early stage, which is significantly lower than the national rate of 22.9 percent.

To help improve the early detection rate in Oklahoma, the Helpline has partnered with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and North American Quitline Consortium on Project Connect, a new digital tool to help people determine if lung cancer screenings are right for them and, if so, to find resources to get screened. Annual lung cancer screening for those at highest risk can reduce the death rate by up to 20 percent. Those identified as high-risk are individuals 55-80 years of age who have a history of smoking and are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years.

“The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never start using tobacco products, and if you already use tobacco, the next best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop,” said Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline Director Jon Hart, Ph.D. “The Helpline uses time-tested, evidence-based approaches to increase your chances of successfully quitting tobacco. Plus, the new Project Connect resources available online will help tobacco users determine if they should get screened for lung cancer. We’re hopeful this support will ultimately boost early detection rates and survivability in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma ranks 41st among the 47 states in the percent – 18.6 – of people living five years after a diagnosis.

This World Lung Cancer Day, consider a healthier lifestyle by thinking about quitting tobacco. Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit OKhelpline.com to explore all the free services and resources available to Oklahomans. Connect with the Helpline through social media by liking the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline on Facebook or following @OKhelpline on Twitter and Instagram. For more information about Project Connect, visit lungscreen.health.

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