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Kentucky students author book about cancer in Appalachia

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 16, 2022

PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky students are tackling the issue of cancer in Eastern Kentucky through a book, "The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION."

It's a part of the University of Kentucky's Appalachian Career Training In Oncology or "ACTION" program. The goal is to bring more awareness and practitioners to the area.

Dr. Nathan Vanderford, professor, and director of the program asked high school and college students to write about their personal experiences with cancer, what they felt caused it, and possible solutions for the future.

"I really hope people are able to take a look at this book and to reflect on what it means in terms of the cancer burden in the state and think about how they can change behaviors in their own life," said Vanderford.

Grad student Thomas Sanders wrote about his father, who he referred to as one of his biggest mentors.

Savannah Saylor wrote about her grandmother and aunt, who both suffered from the disease.

The book "The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION," is the second edition. The first edition was released in 2020.

More than 20 high school and college student essays are included.

Historically, Appalachia has had some of the highest cancer death rates in the nation.

"We've made progress. It's significant progress. It's just we're still way too high relative to other parts of the United States," said Dr. Thomas C. Tucker, Senior Director for Cancer Surveillance at the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center.

Tucker says there are several factors: including chemicals in the environment, poverty, education, and lack of access to health care. He says screening and willingness to be screened is something health care professionals have been working to push.

"What we have discovered, and some of that seminal work was done right here at the University of Kentucky, is that if we use lay health navigators, people from that community, we reduced the cultural bias, and we're much more effective at communicating the need to do that," explained Tucker.

The need for education and personal connection is why Tucker says the ACTION program's work is so important right now.

"These are just phenomenal young people and some of the work they're doing is just extraordinary," said Tucker. "The potential to really have a long-lasting impact is very high. It's especially high when these people go back into the community and become engaged in working there. They become leaders in the community and people look up to them."