James “Buddy” Chess is a master fisherman who is most relaxed along the waterfront, waiting for the “big one” to take his line.

When he's not working as a Community Health Advisor in Choctaw County, Alabama, James "Buddy" Chess spends his free time fishing. (Photo submitted)When he's not working as a Community Health Advisor in Choctaw County, Alabama, James "Buddy" Chess spends his free time fishing. (Photo submitted)

Still, he remembers that his most recent peace of mind came in the form of a simple, yet important test regarding his health.

“I’ve never had a million dollars, but it was just like I had won the lottery,” Chess said.

Chess recently underwent a simple screening for lung cancer through the Alabama Lung Cancer Awareness Screening and Education program.

ALCASE is a partnership between the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB and the GO2 Foundation that uses the O’Neal Cancer Center’s Community Health Advisor model to persuade smokers and former smokers in Jefferson, Macon, Choctaw, Greene, Hale, Sumter and Dallas counties to seek screening for lung cancer.

Chess, a former smoker who quit five years ago, said he wasn’t nervous about the test. Still, he admitted that a lingering doubt hovered until the final results came in. Health officials asked him to take second test, which was also negative.

“Everything went fine. It wasn’t bad at all,” Chess said regarding the screening process. “It went so smoothly, and it wasn’t a long wait.”

Coordinators and Community Health Advisors from the O’Neal Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement support the goals of ALCASE by addressing disparities in lung cancer awareness and education among underserved communities.

Chess himself is a Community Health Advisor in Choctaw County, Alabama, who works to educate neighbors about lung cancer, eliminate any fear they might have and present options for screening. The teams encourage those in their communities to get screenings, which are low-dose CT scans. The process takes about 15 minutes.

“If you smoke or smoked a couple of years back, take my advice and get it done,” Chess said. “It’s not going to hurt anything. If you’re scared of taking it, don’t be. Just go ahead and do it.”

James "Buddy" Chess (Photo submitted)James "Buddy" Chess (Photo submitted)

Chess and ALCASE advocates stress that early detection is essential. While lung cancer screening provides the greatest chance for finding and treating the disease early, only 4% of the national population is screened each year.

“If I could tell every person that has a history of smoking a simple statement, it would be to get screened for lung cancer since it is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States,” said Kathy Levy, project manager for ALCASE. “Many people with lung cancer don’t show any signs or symptoms, so it is important to get screened at the age-appropriate time. Getting a low-dose CT scan to detect lung cancer is easy and fast. It doesn’t take long at all.”

Men and women who are 55 and older and who are current or former smokers are urged to get a low-dose CT to screen for lung cancer. Ask your provider for a referral today.

"Your insurance will cover the low-dose CT Scan, but if you are not insured, please contact us so you can be screened," Levy said. "We are here to help you to live a long, healthy life.”

ALCASE is accepting new participants for screenings. Call (205) 975-0003 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more and join.

This story originally ran in the June 2021 issue of Community Connections, the monthly newsletter of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.