The American Lung Association released it’s fourth annual “State Of Lung Cancer” report Tuesday, with some good news and some bad news in the latest data.
Connecticut ranked first in five-year survival rate, the best in the nation. That means nearly a third of people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive five years or longer.
However, there are some aspects where the state needs improvement. Connecticut ranks 24th when it comes to having the most new cases, and 17th for screening. Experts say fewer than 8% of the people who are eligible are screened early.
That is problematic, they say, because while Connecticut has the top survival rate in the country, there is still less than a 30% chance of surviving five years. However when stage one cancer is detected, the chance of surviving at least five years climbs to 90% or higher, making early detection crucial.
In Bloomfield, about 80 people were examined for lung cancer Tuesday at the community center, where UConn Health gave free screenings for those at-risk.
“Patients that have smoked one pack a day for 20 years, are between the ages of 50 and 80, and have no symptoms of cancer. Lung cancer is most often detected when patients have symptoms, and at that point, it’s grown to a point at which it’s not curable,” Dr. Electra Kaloudis, radiologist and UConn Health Lung Screening Program director, said.
This year, close to 236,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer, according to the report.
“This is the number one cancer killer,” Dr. David Hill, pulmonologist with Waterbury Pulmonary Associates and National Board Member for the American Lung Association, said. “Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. You should be worried about air pollution, which at least worldwide may be the number two cause of lung cancer after smoking. So all of those things are important, and no one deserves lung cancer.”
The ”State Of Lung Cancer” report ranks Connecticut top five in three different categories: five-year survival, early diagnosis, and surgical treatment.
The data indicates chances of beating the disease are getting better, but not for everyone.
Nationally, the five-year survival rate is just above 23%. However, for all communities of color, the survival rate drops to 20%. It is even lower for all Black Americans, at just 18%.
“In Connecticut, we found that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are least likely to be diagnosed,” Ruth Canovi, Connecticut Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association, said. “We’re collecting more data, trying to identify trends, and then really bringing people to the table to identify culturally appropriate responses, public health interventions, and programs to address those inequities”
UConn took one step Tuesday to close health equity gaps.
“We’re providing fares for buses, or providing Uber rides, those kinds of things to make sure they can go get the screening that they need,” Dr. Omar Ibrahim, UConn Health Thoracic Oncology Director, said. “Bloomfield has predominantly African American community, and we want to make sure that access is provided to everybody. In underserved populations, screening tends to be an afterthought, and we wanted to make sure at UConn Health we put that forward and that’s our first step.”
If lung cancer is detected early and has not spread, it can be treated with surgery. However the report shows nationally, only about 20% of cases underwent surgery. Lack of a provider, the cost of treatment, and stigma are all reasons why some cases go totally untreated.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.