Knox cancer rate extremely high

Sherry Payne
Sherry Payne

“I work for an organization that I know saved my life.”

Sherry Payne was only 44 years old in 1998 when she was diagnosed with advanced stage colon cancer. She was given two years to live. After enduring 48 aggressive treatments for cancer, she was still down and out a long two years later.

“My husband told me to either go back to work or stop spending money,” Payne laughed, as she spoke opening about her cancer diagnosis with the Knox County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.

Colon cancer, she said is the easiest and most preventable type of cancer. The trouble is, people simply will not take the time to get their screenings.

“It takes too long. It hurts too much. I can’t afford it. That’s just the main excuses people use,” said Payne. “But a really big excuse in this area is, “Cancer’s killed people in my family, now it’s my turn.”

Sherry Payne, who has been a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society for years, now works for the organization and has been put in charge of her own project, known as the Community Health Advisor Program, (or CHA Program.)

A person’s lifestyle, she said, is the number one contributor to developing cancer, even more so than heredity or environmental factors.

“Our lifestyle choices contribute to 68 percent of all cancers,” she said, “and the decisions we make daily largely affect whether we do or don’t develop cancer.”

Nationwide, cancer rates are on the decline, she said. However, Kentucky ranks number one in the whole country on cancer incident rates in colon cancer. Knox County itself has an extremely high mortality rate due to the lack of colonoscopy screenings. This is why Payne is helping the ACS get proactive by encouraging people to get their cancer screenings and begin living a healthier lifestyle.

As the Community Health Advisor, Payne’s job is to train local people on how to go into the community and educate people about cancer and then help them get screened for breast, cervical or colon cancers.

An organizational meeting for anyone interested in helping with the Community Health Advisor Program will be set up in the near future. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions about the program, you can call Sherry Payne at 627-1801 or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.