How Serious Is Lung Cancer? | American Lung Association

How Serious Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S. It also has one of the lowest five-year survival rates of all cancer types.

Hard to Find Early

One reason why lung cancer is so deadly is that it is hard to find in its early stages. It may take years for the lung cancer to grow and there usually are no symptoms early on.  By the time you start to notice symptoms, the cancer often has spread to other parts of the body.

Current Lung Cancer Statistics Are Alarming:

  • Lung cancer is common
    • Lung cancer causes the most cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths annually.1
    • Approximately 415,000 Americans living today have ever been diagnosed with lung cancer.2
    • Lung cancer is deadly.
    • Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S.
    • More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.2
    • In 1987, it surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.3
    • Lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and prostate).3
    • An estimated 158,480 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2016, accounting for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths.4
  • Lung cancer is costly
    • The National Institutes of Health estimated that lung cancer care cost the U.S. $13.4 billion in 2015.5
    • Lost productivity due to dying early from lung cancer accounts for an additional $36.1 billion. 5
  • Lung cancer isn't going away
    • There will be more than 224,000 new cases of lung cancer in 2016.4
    • These new cases accounted for more than 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses.4
    • Over the last 10 years, the number of deaths due to lung cancer has decreased about 6 percent among men, but increased about 2 percent among women.3

Hope in Early Detection and New Treatment

Lung cancer can be treated more successfully when it is found early. Researchers are working hard to develop tests that can find lung cancer in its early stages. New studies have shown that low-dose CT screening (LDCT) for high-risk individuals who meet certain guidelines can save lives.

Researchers also are studying new treatments to help people live longer and to even cure lung cancer.

  • Sources
    1. World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. GLOBOCAN 2012: Estimated Cancer Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence Worldwide in 2012. Lung Cancer.
    2. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2013.
    3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. CDC WONDER On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2014 Series 20 No. 2R, 2014.
    4. 4. Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer Statistics, 2016. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2016; 66:7-30.
    5. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trends Progress Report. Financial Burden of Cancer Care. November, 2015.

    Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 3, 2016.

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