Survival Rate Increasing in Lung Cancer

People with lung cancer are living longer. This is a key finding of The State of Lung Cancer 2019 report issued by the American Lung Association. The survival rate for men and women in the US diagnosed with lung cancer has dramatically increased over the past decade.1-3

More than 228,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.1-2 Lung cancer is responsible for about 25 percent of cancer deaths in the US. There is good news, the 5-year survival rates have been improving overall, up 26 percent from 2009 to 2019.1-2 But there are significant differences noted in the incidence and the risk of dying from lung cancer between states.1

What does the report say?

The research study evaluated different factors related to the improved survival of lung cancer. The goal was to identify changes that could be made that could further improve survival. Results were reported on an overall national basis and on a state by state basis.1

The national incidence of lung cancer was 59.6/100,000 individuals. Yet it notably ranged from a low of 27.1/100,000 persons in Utah to a high of 92.6/100,000 in Kentucky. Similarly, the 5-year survival after the diagnosis of lung cancer also varied by state. It ranged from 26.4 percent in Connecticut down to 16.8 percent in Alabama.1

Key national statistics

These are some of the key national statistics reviewed in the report:1-3

  • 21.5 percent of patients are diagnosed at an early stage
  • 57.7 percent of patients will still be alive at 5 years if cancer is confined to the primary site at the time of diagnosis
  • Only 6 percent of patients will still be alive if the cancer has already spread (metastasized) to other organs at the time of diagnosis
  • Screening and treatment rates vary significantly across the country
  • Annual low-dose cat scans can reduce death from lung cancer by nearly 20 percent
  • 15.4 percent is the national average of those who receive no treatment for lung cancer

State by state findings

State-specific findings were reported with the objective of providing help to policymakers, researchers, clinicians, and other stakeholders.1-2 They want to guide decision making as to the allocation of resources on a state by state basis. Each state can then best address their unique issues so as to reduce lung cancer burden.1

The American Lung Association wants to help individual states to take steps to reduce the number of cases and improve early detection of lung cancer. This includes efforts to improve screening programs, especially for people considered to be at high risk. This can also help to reduce the imbalance in access for people who can get treatment, and decreasing exposure to environmental causes including radon, secondhand smoke, and eliminating tobacco use.

Key state statistics

There are some key differences in lung cancer statistics between states:1-3

  • Incidence: 27.1/100,000 in Utah 92.6/100,000 in Kentucky
  • Early diagnosis: 28.1 percent in Wyoming to 16.6 percent in Alaska
  • 5-year survival: 26.4 percent in Connecticut to 16.8 percent in Alabama
  • Surgery treatment first: 30.5 percent in Massachusetts to 13.5percent in New Mexico
  • Lack of treatment: 8 percent in North Dakota to 30.4 percent in Arizona
  • Screening rate: 12.3 percent in Massachusetts to just 0.5 percent in Nevada
  • Medicaid programs are not required to cover the cost of lung cancer screenings
  • 31 state Medicaid programs did cover the cost of screenings

Is a cure or prevention in the future?

More Americans than ever are surviving with lung cancer.2 The last decade has seen a decrease in the rate of new lung cancer cases by 19 percent.2 The report found that early diagnosis can make a dramatic difference in 5-year survival.1 This finding can impact the approach taken by States as they address the specific lung cancer concerns. The report identifies what changes need to be made to save more lives.2

There is much left to be done on a national and local level to improve screening, treatment, and prevention of lung cancer. The report suggests that 48,000 people could be saved by more widespread screening using CT scans.1 Knowledge and information can help people and providers to be more aware of the risks for developing lung cancer.1-3 They can also educate people on the symptoms associated with it. Even though the national smoking rate has gone down, not all regions of the country have had the same results. The American Lung Association wants to help each state recognize opportunities to improve the care of its residents.2-3

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