Report says that the survival rate for lung cancer in America has risen to 21%. However, there is still much work to do.

The five-year lung cancer survival rate has increased 21%, from 21% in 2014 to 25% in 2018, making what experts call “remarkable progress” – but it is still the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

According to the 2022 State of Lung Cancer Report, published Tuesday by the American Lung Association, the odds of surviving five-years after being diagnosed are lower in communities of color at 20%.

State survival rates vary from one state to the next. Oklahoma’s survival rate is 19.7% while Rhode Island’s is 30.8%.

A 21% increase in survival over five years is good. “I don’t believe there are many other groups who have seen this level of improvement,” Dr. Jeffrey Crawford, a Duke Health medical oncologist, said.

This is due to the fact that many people discover they have cancer in later stages.

Early detection of cancer increases your chances of survival. The report states that 44% of lung cancer cases are not detected until the last stage, which is when the survival rate drops to 7%.

More screening needed

The US Preventive Services Task Force has expanded its recommendations for screening for lung cancer in 2021. The Task Force now recommends screening anyone between 50 and 80 years old who has had a 20-year smoking record. This means that they smoked one pack per day for 20 years, or two packs per day for 10, or have stopped smoking in the last 15 years.

According to the report, 5.8% of the recommended population will be screened in 2021.

Lung cancer screening can help detect cancers earlier and make them more treatable. “There is a lot of progress to make there,” stated Dr. John Heymach of thoracic/head-and neck medical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was not involved with the new research. Although 5.8% is a significant improvement over the previous, these numbers remain dismal.

There is some research that suggests as high as 60,000 lives could have been saved every year if all 14.5 million Americans were screened for lung cancer.

Nearly all private insurance policies cover the cost for screening. Obamacare requires that most of them do so. These tests can only be covered by state Medicaid programs. However, most states have them.

“It is disappointing that the advancements we are seeing in lung cancer screening are not due to huge success screening, which we should be doing. Crawford stated that we are still screening only a small number of patients.

He suggested that a large part of the problem could be at the primary care level.

We have not been able to convince the primary care doctors to change their attitude about lung cancer. For decades there has been a pessimism regarding lung cancer. Crawford stated that they believe it’s a smoking-related disease and the outcomes are poor. They also think patients won’t be healthy enough for surgery so no need to screen. Crawford said that there are many misconceptions about breast cancer, but that we haven’t really communicated that fact. That’s the truth.

Lung cancer inequities

The report states that people of color are less likely to develop lung cancer in the early stages.

Black and Latino people were 15% more likely to develop lung cancer earlier than Whites. Asian Americans had 16% lower chances of being diagnosed early.

Latinos who had lung cancer were 28% less likely than Whites not to receive treatment. It was 10% for Blacks.

Lung cancer in American Indians was 13% more likely to be detected early and 21% less likely that they would receive surgical treatment. They were also 23% less likely than Whites to live five years.

The number of cases nationwide fell 11% between 2014 and 2018. The report states that nearly 237,000 people will be diagnosed this year with lung cancer.

The rates of cancer vary from one state to the next. Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer. It has a rate almost 2.5 times higher than Utah’s, which has the lowest rate. It is due to differences in insurance coverage, available treatments and risk factors.

Lung cancer is not just a problem for smokers. Exposure to secondhand smoke and radon, as well as air pollution are all risk factors.

According to the 2022 American Lung Association State of the Air report, approximately 137 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air quality.

Why the state of lung cancer is improving

This new report doesn’t explain why lung cancer rates have decreased over the years. The new report does not explain why lung cancer numbers have declined over the years.

Heymach stated that smoking cessation efforts over the years and the reduction in secondhand smoke from policies in restaurants and other public spaces that prohibit smoking have been a huge success for public health and saved thousands of lives each year.

He said that treatments have improved dramatically, and that survival rates have made dramatic strides.

A decade ago, survival rates for cancer patients who had spread to other organs were below 5%. The average survival rate was approximately one year.

However, with the discovery of targeted therapies called EGFR inhibitors (pills that target specific mutations in lung cancer), the expected survival time is now greater than four years Heymach stated.

These therapies are only available to patients with mutations that can be targeted by a pill.

For others, immunotherapies like PD-1 inhibitors can be used to boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer and increase the chances of survival for five years by more than 10%.

Heymach stated, “That’s not as high a number as we would like, but it is still remarkable progress.” “All these therapies have really made dramatic changes.”

Although he believes there is still much to be done to save people from lung cancer, things are improving.

“Lung cancer has seen a lot of progress in cancer survival over the past few years. Lung cancer is the type of cancer that has seen the greatest advances in cancer treatments. This is a good thing, as it was the last time there had been any progress.

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