The State of Lung Cancer in the United States
On February 28, 2018, the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE published its inaugural “State of Lung Cancer,” which shows how the toll of lung cancer varies by state. The American Lung Association finds that the United States can do more to reduce the toll of lung cancer—the number one cancer killer of women and men.
Deb Brown, executive vice president of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, answered a few questions for us regarding the report.
Consultant360: This is the inaugural “State of Lung Cancer” report. Why did the American Lung Association decide to release this report now?
Deb Brown: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, accounting for about 1 in 4 cancer deaths. Anyone can get lung cancer. No one deserves lung cancer. Lung cancer deaths can be prevented, and so that is one of the goals of this report, in addition to raising awareness of early detection and what states can do to prevent lung cancer deaths.
Early detection through screening has a crucial impact on survival, as does access to quality health care. New Jersey residents should be able to access the care they need, and your ability to access health care shouldn’t be determined by where you live. Research has shown that screening for lung cancer can catch cases earlier and save lives. If the disease is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving 5 years improves from 11% to 55%. Supporting awareness of criteria for lung cancer screening and availability of screening facilities, we can catch lung cancer at earlier stages—when it is more likely to be curable.
C360: Can you tell us a little bit more about the report?
DB: The LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report examines 5 lung cancer indicators throughout the United States: incidence, survival, stage at diagnosis, surgical treatment, and lung cancer screening facilities. In its first year, the report finds that lung cancer diagnoses and survival rates vary state by state.
There will be more than 5870 people in New Jersey diagnosed with lung cancer and 3670 will succumb to the deadly disease in 2018. More must be done to save lives. The American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative was created to help defeat lung cancer and give hope to families facing this diagnosis. In order to do so, we need a multipronged approach that engages a variety of tactics and stakeholders to address the disease, its risk factors, and access to preventive health services and treatment options.
C360: How did New Jersey rank in each of these indicators?
- On average, the higher prevalence of smoking, the more lung cancer cases in a state. New Jersey ranks 16 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia with a lung cancer incidence of 59.4 per 100,000 people.
- Lung cancer is often not caught at an early stage when it is more likely to be curable. The 5-year lung cancer survival rate ranges from 24% in New York to 15.9% in Louisiana, with New Jersey at 22.6%.
- People diagnosed at early stages of lung cancer are 5 times more likely to survive, but unfortunately only 18.9% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. In New Jersey, only 19.7% of lung cancer cases were diagnosed at early stages.
- New Jersey ranks 4 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, with 9.2 screening centers per million people. Supporting awareness of these screening facilities, as well as criteria for low-dose computed tomography scans, can improve patient outcomes.
- In New Jersey, 25.7% of cases underwent surgery as part of the first course of treatment, ranking 4 out of 48 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to screening centers, quality health care and new treatment options for lung cancer are needed to increase survival rates.
C360: This report is launching just 2 weeks before lung cancer survivors, also known as LUNG FORCE Heroes, head to Washington, D.C., to share their story with Congress. Can you talk a bit more about the importance of the “State of Lung Cancer” report during the Lung Association’s advocacy day?
DB: On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, lung cancer patients will be heading to Capitol Hill to share their story and these startling statistics with members of Congress. LUNG FORCE Heroes from all 50 states, including New Jersey, will be asking Congress to support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health for better treatment and early detection of lung cancer, as well as sharing why quality and affordable health care is especially important for lung cancer patients.
The LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report is both a guide post and rallying cry, providing policymakers, researchers, health care practitioners, as well as patients, caregivers, and others committed to ending lung cancer, with a 1-stop resource for identifying how their state can best focus to support lung cancer patients, their caregivers, and those at high risk for lung cancer.
LUNG FORCE is a nationwide initiative led by the American Lung Association to unite women and their loved ones to stand together against lung cancer. The American Lung Association is committed to a comprehensive approach to defeat lung cancer. Efforts in prevention, early detection, awareness, research and patient support all move us closer to making sure fewer people get lung cancer, and those who are diagnosed, live longer. Lung cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters are encouraged to join the nationwide initiative at LUNGFORCE.org.