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American Lung Association's 'State of Lung Cancer' 2019 Report Finds Massachusetts Leading the Way on Lung Cancer Screenings, Early Detection and Surgery

Second annual report from American Lung Association explores how states can act to save more lives, support patients and families facing lung cancer

(November 13, 2019) - Boston, MA

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Solomon
[email protected]
(516) 680-8927

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women and men in the United States. While it’s estimated that 5,150 Massachusetts residents will be diagnosed with this disease in 2019 alone, fortunately more Americans than ever are surviving the disease according to a new report from the American Lung Association. 

The annual “State of Lung Cancer” report examines the toll of lung cancer throughout the nation, and outlines steps every state can take to better protect its residents from lung cancer. This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” seeks to continue the positive trend of increased lung cancer survival, as the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate of 21.7%, up from 17.2% a decade ago, reflects a 26% improvement over the past 10 years. While Massachusetts does not track the 5-year survival rate, the Commonwealth did report the highest percentage of high risk patients receiving screenings and cases treated with surgery. 

“While we celebrate that more Americans than ever are surviving lung cancer, the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths, and much more can and must be done in Massachusetts to prevent the disease and support families facing the disease,” said Karen Whitefield, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. “We are proud that Massachusetts ranked first when it comes to getting high risk patients into screenings – but we still only reached 12.3 % of those eligible  – so yes, we can and must do better.”

Part of the reason that lung cancer is so deadly is because most lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage, after the disease has spread. Lung cancer screening is the key to early detection, when the disease is most curable, but only 21.5% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. In Massachusetts 26.7 % of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, coming in behind only Wyoming in the state rankings (at 28.1%). 

Dr. Andrea McKee Director of the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center CT screening program said, “This simple test - lung cancer screening - is a powerful tool to save lives, and yet we’re only seeing a fraction of those who qualify actually getting screened. We are working to bring more awareness of screenings to the general public, but also to continue to push the medical community to offer these screenings to high risk patients, the same way they encourage tests like colonoscopies and mammograms” 

The "State of Lung Cancer" 2019 report finds that the burden of lung cancer varies on a state by state basis. By better understanding the impact of lung cancer across the nation, efforts and policies can be focused where the needs are greatest, and this year’s report finds Massachusetts is leading in screenings, early detection and surgical intervention, but it still must do more to protect residents from lung cancer. Below are the key findings for Massachusetts:

  • Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 21.5 % of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher (57.7%). Unfortunately, about 48.5% of cases are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is only 6%. Massachusetts ranks among highest with 26.7% of cases diagnosed early.
  • Surgical Treatment: Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread widely. Nationally, 20.6 % of cases underwent surgery. Massachusetts ranks #1 with 30.5 % cases undergoing surgery.
  • Screening and Prevention: Screening for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans among those who qualify can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 4.2% of those who qualify were screened. Massachusetts ranked #1 with 12.3% of eligible patients being screened.

The report also tracks 5-year survival rate and the among of cases that receive no treatment in each state, but Massachusetts did not have that information available.  Tracking this data is vital for medical professionals and policy experts to assess how each state and its residents are managing the burden of lung cancer.

Learn more about "State of Lung Cancer" at Lung.org/solc. For media interested in speaking with a medical expert about the "State of Lung Cancer" 2019 report or lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact Jennifer Solomon at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

Background on the Report 

The American Lung Association’s “State of Lung Cancer” 2019 is the second report we have released on key lung cancer statistics for each state. The 2019 report uses data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American College of Radiology (ACR), among other sources. Analysis of this data is conducted by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics team.

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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