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American Lung Association’s ‘State of Lung Cancer’ 2019 Report finds Virginia must act to reduce burden of lung cancer

From the American Lung Association of Virginia:

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women and men in the United States. While it’s estimated that 5,950 Virginia residents 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 Virginia, the survival rate is among the average at 21.4%.

“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 Virginia to prevent the disease and support families facing the disease,” said Aleks Casper, Director, Advocacy, VA, DE, DC, MD, American Lung Association.

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% of those eligible in Virginia have been screened.

“This simple test―lung cancer screening―is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Casper. “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 Virginia.”

The “State of Lung Cancer” 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 Virginia can and must do more to protect residents from lung cancer. Below are the key findings for Virginia:

  • New cases: More than 228,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year with the rate of new cases varying by state. The report finds that Utah has the nation’s lowest lung cancer rate while Kentucky has the highest. Virginia is ranked among the average with an incidence rate of 58.8 per 100,000 people.
  • 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. Virginia is among the average in the nation with 21.4% of cases 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%. Virginia ranks among the average with 20.9% of cases diagnosed at an early stage.
  • 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. Virginia ranks among the average with 20.4% of cases undergoing surgery as part of their 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. Virginia ranks better than average with 11.7% of cases receiving no treatment after being diagnosed compared to 15.4% nationally.

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. Virginia ranked among average with 5% of those at high risk receiving screening in 2018

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