More Americans are surviving lung cancer, American Lung Association report finds

A new report by the American Lung Association shows that more Americans are surviving lung cancer as the survival rate has increased over the last decade.

The organization’s “State of Lung Cancer” report, which was published on Nov. 13, found that the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with lung cancer has increased to 21.7 percent. It’s a 26 percent increase from 2009 when the survival rate was only 17.2 percent, according to the report.

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But the report noted that lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths across the country. It also showed that diagnoses and survival rates vary by state.

“More than 228,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and the rate of new cases varies greatly by state,” the report stated.

The national cancer rate comes out to 59.6 cases per 100,000 people. The report found that Utah has the lowest lung cancer rates in the country 27.1 cases per 100,000 people, while Kentucky has the highest at 92.6 cases.

“There are a variety of risk factors associated with lung cancer, including smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and secondhand smoke,” the report stated.

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The five-year survival rate also varied by state, with Connecticut at 26.4 percent and Alabama at 16.8 percent.

Authors of the report emphasized that most cancer cases are diagnosed at later stages when the cancer has spread throughout the body, lowering chances of survival. As with lung cancer cases, the stages where someone is diagnosed with lung cancer “varies significantly” by state.

The highest early-diagnosis rate was for Wyoming at 28.1 percent and Alaska had the lowest at 16.6 percent.

“Lung cancer is more likely to be curable if the tumor can be removed through surgery, and surgery is more likely to be an option if the diagnosis is made at an early stage before cancer has widely spread,” according to the report.

Nationally, 20.6 percent of lung cancer cases involved surgery as part of the treatment. Massachusetts had the highest rate at 30.5 percent and New Mexico was low at 13.5 percent.

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But not every person diagnosed with cancer can receive treatment either because the cancer has spread, they’re in poor health, they’re unable to pay for the health care costs, or they refuse treatment.

The rate of people who do not receive treatment nationally is about 15.4 percent, but the highest rate was in Arizona at 30.4 percent and the lowest in North Dakota at 8 percent.

“The report found that lung cancer rates for every measure vary significantly by state, and that every state can do more to defeat lung cancer, such as increasing the rate of screening among those at high risk, addressing disparities in receipt of treatment, decreasing exposure to radon and secondhand smoke and eliminating tobacco use,” the report concluded.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.