BOSTON (SHNS) – Massachusetts leads the nation in screening, early diagnosis, and surgical treatment of lung cancer, according to a new report, which also found survival rates are improving nationally for everyone, including people of color.
The newly released American Lung Association annual report found that on a national scale, the five-year lung cancer survival rate for people of color has increased by 17 percent in the last two years.
The national rate of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 26.6 percent, and has improved by 22 percent over the last five years, the association reported. Data for the five-year survival rate in Massachusetts was unavailable.
Still, lung cancer kills more than 356 people every day, and there’s a new lung cancer diagnosis in the U.S. about every two minutes.
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, the report said. Nationally, only 26.6 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher (63 percent).
Massachusetts ranked as the best state in the nation for early diagnosis, with 33.3 percent of cases diagnosed at an early stage. Massachusetts also had the highest rate among states for lung cancer surgery, at 31.3 percent. If lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread, it can often be treated with surgery. Nationally, 20.8 percent of cases underwent surgery.
Nationally, only 4.5 percent of those at high risk for lung cancer were screened. At 11.5 percent, Massachusetts had the highest screening rate, the report said.
“Thankfully, in Massachusetts, the lung cancer survival rate has improved because of increased awareness, improved access to healthcare, and cutting-edge research into new treatments for the disease,” American Lung Association Advocacy Director Daniel Fitzgerald said. “However, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths here in the Bay State and across the nation, and our recent report makes it clear that we have more work to do to reduce the burden of lung cancer and increase screening rates for those at risk.”
At 59.5 cases per 100,000 residents, Massachusetts exceeded the national rate of 54.6 cases per 100,000.
Eliminating tobacco use and curbing exposures to radon, air pollution, and secondhand smoke were all identified as “keys to prevention” of lung cancer in the report. Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of cases, the report said.
“It is not always possible to identify the cause of an individual patient’s lung cancer,” the report said, recommending that people discuss with their doctor any concerns about risk due to exposure or family history.
Along with the new data, the association is recommending that states pass laws expanding access to biomarker cancer testing and ensure that the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s recommended screenings and treatments are “protected and codified into state law.”