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Three people with their arms around each other and their lungs highlighted look out into the distance through a clearing between bronchial patterns on either side of them.

Lung Cancer Mortality Rate Expected to Drop

Every year, the Lung Cancer Acton Network (LungCAN) updates its lung cancer statistics and shares the updates with member organizations. We do this so that all the lung cancer advocacy organizations are all on the same page when quoting statistics. Using consistent, reliable statistics helps avoid confusion, eliminate conflicting facts, and reject hyperbole. Lung cancer facts do not need to be exaggerated.

Reflections and celebrations

For the past several years, the folks at LUNGevity have spearheaded this effort. They share their findings with the greater lung cancer advocacy community, including LungCAN. The primary source of these statistics is the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, an authoritative source for cancer statistics in the U.S.

We recently received the most current statistics which are cause for reflection, if not celebration. Granted, lung cancer statistics are still grim. Yet, the updated statistics reflect a new hope for higher survival rates among lung cancer patients.

What do the findings show?

The statistics show a dramatic decrease in the number of estimated deaths for 2019. To fully appreciate the dynamics of this change, compare the estimated number of deaths from seven years ago to this year’s estimate. In 2012, the estimated number of deaths was 160,340. This year the number of estimated deaths is 142,670.

There is a difference of 17,670 lives saved! That is an 11 percent decrease in deaths from 2012 to 2019.

Wow. Amazing.

Juxtapose that revelation with the fact that approximately 6,000 people more people will be diagnosed this year than in 2012. So even though we have thousands of more cases, the survival rate has improved significantly.

Also, as some of my fellow advocates have pointed out because there is a significant lag in the SEER data reporting, these statistics are drawn from data compiled prior to 2017 and do not necessarily reflect some of our most recent research advances, including screening, immunotherapy, and several new targeted therapies.

This means hope

What does this mean? In a word: Hope. For the past several years, the number of estimated deaths has been lower than the previous year. These statistics reveal a positive trend leading me and others to be more hopeful than ever before. If you have just been diagnosed, or if you have been in treatment for a long time, take heart. You could be one of these thousands of lives saved.

Folks from LUNGevity suggest cautious optimism — for now. When I inquired further about the new eye-opening statistics, they explained that SEER’s mortality estimates are derived from models that use data from different parts of the country to extrapolate to the whole. The estimates usually, but not always, get a little lower each year. However, whether the large drop in 2019 is an anomaly or represents a real decline is too soon to say. We’d have to see data for a few more years.

Optimism for a different, better future

I can’t help it. I am beyond cautiously optimistic. I am extremely hopeful that we are entering a new era where lung cancer survival rates continue to increase. I hope and pray (believing) that this is not an anomaly.

Some lives may be saved by early detection through screening. Others may be responsive to immunotherapy. Still, others may have certain biomarkers with targetable treatment. Regardless of the reasons for such an improvement of mortality rates in our community, let’s embrace it.

It’s about damn time.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • vikkr
    3 months ago


  • Alisa moderator
    6 months ago

    Thanks for letting us know the stats. Good news, I am also optimistic!

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