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New Report on State of Lung Cancer in Massachusetts: Despite Higher Than Average New Incidence Rate, Massachusetts Leads the Nation in Early Diagnoses and Surgical Treatment

Massachusetts Ranks 1st and 2nd in the Nation on Surgical Treatment of Lung Cancer and Early Stage Diagnoses but Neglects to Track 5-Year Survival Statistics, Finds New Report from American Lung Association

(February 28, 2018) - BOSTON

For more information please contact:

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

Every two and a half minutes someone in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer. The American Lung Association’s inaugural LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report is the first time that these national and state lung cancer statistics have been analyzed in one report to show how the toll of lung cancer varies across the country, and how Massachusetts can do more to protect their residents from lung cancer.

“There will be over 5,000 people in Massachusetts diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 3,000 will succumb to the deadly disease in 2018. More must be done to save lives,” Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President for the American Lung Association, Northeast Region. “The American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative was created to help defeat lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer deaths - and this new report outlines what we need to do to succeed - tackling both the disease and its risk factors as well as supporting access to preventative health services and treatment options.”

The LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” 2018 report finds that lung cancer diagnosis and survival rates vary state by state. It also highlights that some states are yet to report on all of the key lung cancer indicators. By better understanding the impact of lung cancer at the state level, we can enact policies and focus attention where the need is greatest. This report covers the following measures of lung cancer burden, and shows where Massachusetts ranks in comparison to the rest of the United States:

  • Incidence: More than 234,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and the rate of new cases vary by state. Massachusetts ranks 29 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia with a lung cancer incidence of 66.5 per 100,000 people<. There are a variety of risk factors associated with lung cancer, including smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and secondhand smoke. Radon testing and mitigation, healthy air protections, and reducing the smoking rate through tobacco tax increases, smokefree air laws and access to comprehensive quit smoking services are all effective ways to prevent new lung cancer cases.
  • Survival Rate: Lung cancer is often not caught at an early stage when it is more likely to be curable. The five-year lung cancer survival rate ranges from 24 percent in New York to 15.9 percent in Louisiana. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is one of 19 states that does not track this metric which is vital in the mission to improve lung cancer survival at the state level.  The American Lung Association recommends that all states enhance monitoring of lung cancer and help identify how to improve outcomes for patients.  
  • Stage at Diagnosis: People diagnosed at early stages of lung cancer are five times more likely to survive, but unfortunately only 18.9 percent of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. Massachusetts was ranked second in the nation on catching lung cancer early, with  23.2 percent of lung cancer cases diagnosed at early stages, when it is most likely to be curable.
  • Screening Centers: The availability of accredited lung cancer screening sites has been shown to be positively related to survival of lung cancer, with each additional screening site per million people being associated with a 0.3 percentage point increase in the lung cancer survival rate. Massachusetts ranks 8 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, with 8.2 screening centers per million people. Raising awareness of these screening facilities, as well as criteria for low-dose CT scans, can improve patient outcomes.
  • Surgical Treatment: Lung cancer is more likely to be curable if the tumor can be surgically removed, and surgery is more likely to be an option if the diagnosis is made at an early stage before the cancer has spread. In Massachusetts, 30.1 percent of cases underwent surgery as part of the first course of treatment, ranking first out of 48 states and the District of Columbia. Quality healthcare and new treatment options for lung cancer are needed to increase survival rates.

“This report is a testament to the medical community in Massachusetts.  While our higher than average incidence rate is troubling, the Massachusetts public can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our local medical professionals know how to spot and treat lung cancer, possibly better than anywhere else in the country,” said Casey Harvell Bowers, Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. “Unfortunately, without data on the 5-year survival rate, we can’t evaluate outcomes for patients which is a crucial metric in defining success. We urge the Massachusetts legislature to look closely at policies that reduce the risk for lung cancer – such has raising the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 -  to curb the incidence rate, and to begin tracking 5-year survival statistics.”

On Wednesday, March 14, lung cancer survivor Rose Goldman, from Boston, will be heading to Capitol Hill to share her story and these startling statistics with her members of Congress. LUNG FORCE Heroes from all 50 states will be asking Congress to support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health for research into causes of lung cancer. better treatment, prevention and early detection of lung cancer, as well as sharing why quality and affordable healthcare is especially important for lung cancer patients.

“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015 after receiving a CT scan.  I was fortunate to have been diagnosed and treated at an early stage before the cancer had  spread,” said Goldman. “We need more voices in this fight against cancer and I am proud to share my story and advocate on behalf of the millions of people that have been affected by lung cancer.”

The LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report is both a guide post and rallying cry, providing policymakers, researchers, healthcare practitioners, as well as patients, caregivers and others committed to ending lung cancer, with a one-stop resource for identifying how their state can best focus to support lung cancer patients – like Rose  Goldman,  their caregivers, and those at high risk for lung cancer.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report, or Rose Goldman on her upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

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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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