Working to beat lung cancer
The American Lung Association recently released its second annual “State of Lung Cancer” report to see what can be done to improve survival rates. METROGRAPHICS
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer of women and men in the United States.
While it’s estimated that 10,380 Pennsylvanians will be diagnosed with this disease in 2019 alone, fortunately more Americans than ever are surviving the disease, according to a new report from the American Lung Association.
The annual “State of Lung Cancer” report examines the toll of lung cancer throughout the nation, and outlines steps every state can take to better protect its residents from lung cancer.
This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” seeks to continue the positive trend of increased lung cancer survival, as the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate of 21.7%, up from 17.2% a decade ago, reflects a 26% improvement over the past 10 years. In Pennsylvania the five-year survival rate is among the average at 22.6%.
“While we celebrate that more Americans than ever are surviving lung cancer, the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths, and much more can and must be done in Pennsylvania to prevent the disease and support families facing the disease,” said Sarah Lawver, American Lung Association advocacy director.
“To save lives, our state officials must do more to ensure that residents at high risk get screened for lung cancer.”
Part of the reason that lung cancer is so deadly is because most lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage, after the disease has spread.
Lung cancer screening is the key to early detection, when the disease is most curable, but only 21.5% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage.
While this simple screening test has been available since 2015, only 5.5% of those eligible in Pennsylvania have been screened.
“This simple test―lung cancer screening―is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Lawver. “Yet we’re only seeing a fraction of those who qualify actually getting screened. We’re pushing for greater awareness of this test to save more lives here in Pennsylvania.”
The 2019 report finds that the burden of lung cancer varies on a state-by-state basis. By better understanding the impact of lung cancer across the nation, efforts and policies can be focused where the needs are greatest, and this year’s report finds Pennsylvania can and must do more to protect residents from lung cancer.
Below are the key findings for Pennsylvania:
• Survival: Lung cancer has one of the lowest five-year survival rates because cases are often diagnosed at later stages when it is less likely to be curable. Pennsylvania ranks average in the nation with 22.6% still alive five years after diagnosis.
• Early diagnosis: Nationally, only 21.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher (57.7%).
Unfortunately, about 48.5% of cases are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is only 6%. Pennsylvania ranks among the average at 21.4% of cases diagnosed at an early stage.
Improving the screening rate would lead to more early diagnosis when removing the tumor surgically is more likely and treatment is more likely to be curative.
• Surgical treatment: Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread widely.
Nationally, 20.6 % of cases underwent surgery. Pennsylvania ranks among the average at 22.5% receiving surgery as part of the first course of treatment.
• Lack of treatment: There are multiple reasons why patients may not receive treatment. Some of these reasons may be unavoidable, but no one should go untreated because of lack of provider or patient knowledge, stigma associated with lung cancer, fatalism after diagnosis, or cost of treatment.
Nationally, about 15.4% of cases receive no treatment. Pennsylvania data is not available.
• Screening and prevention: Screening for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans among those who qualify can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 4.2% of those who qualify were screened. Pennsylvania ranked among the average with 5.5 % of those at high-risk receiving screening in 2018.
The American Lung Association’s “State of Lung Cancer” 2019 is the second report we have released on key lung cancer statistics for each state.