New Report: Alabama has the Worst Lung Cancer Survival Rate in U.S.

American Lung Association’s new report examines toll of lung cancer in Alabama, identifies opportunities to save lives through improved access to screening, early diagnosis

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 4,230 Alabama residents will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone. The 2020 “State of Lung Cancer” report from the American Lung Association finds that while more Americans are surviving the disease, people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents, and Alabama can do more to improve survival rates, early diagnosis rates and surgery as the first course of treatment.

The 3rd 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. For the first time, this year’s report explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic groups at the national and state levels.

This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” highlights the positive trend of increased lung cancer survival, as the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate of 22.6% reflects a 13% improvement over the past five years. However, Alabama has the worst survival rate in the nation at 17.1%.

“While we celebrate that more Americans are surviving lung cancer, too many people are being left behind, and the disease still remains the leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Lance Boucher, the senior division director of state public policy at the Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in Alabama to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease.”

The "State of Lung Cancer" report finds that the burden of lung cancer varies by state. By better understanding the impact of lung cancer across the nation, efforts and policies can be focused where the needs are greatest. Below are the key findings for Alabama:

  • Incidence: Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. The national lung cancer incidence rate is 58.7. Alabama has the 37th highest lung cancer incidence rate in the nation (average), at a rate of 65.2 people out of 100,000 people.
  • Survival: Lung cancer has one of the lowest five-year survival rates because cases are often diagnosed at later stages when it is less likely to be curable. Alabama has the lowest lung cancer survival rate in the nation (47th out of 47 states that report data) at 17.1%.
  • Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 22.9% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher. Alabama ranks 38th in the nation (below average) at 21.4%.
  • 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. Alabama ranks 37th in the nation (below average) at 17.8%.
  • Lack of Treatment: There are multiple reasons why patients may not receive treatment. Some of these reasons may be unavoidable, but no one should go untreated because of lack of provider or patient knowledge, stigma associated with lung cancer, fatalism after diagnosis, or cost of treatment. Nationally, about 15.2% of cases receive no treatment. Alabama ranks 35th in the nation (average) at 17.8%.
  • Screening and Prevention: Greater uptake of lung cancer screening among those at high risk will have a positive impact on early detection and survival. Nationally, only 5.7% of those who qualify were screened. Alabama ranked 29th in the nation (average) with 5.9%. 
  • Health Disparities: The Lung Association believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a full and healthy life. Sadly, many systemic issues have contributed to health disparities, including for those facing lung cancer. The report found that people of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to white Americans as they are less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment, and more likely to receive no treatment. In Alabama, Black Americans are least likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer early.

Learn more about "State of Lung Cancer" at Lung.org/solc. For media interested in speaking with a lung cancer expert about advances in lung cancer and the "State of Lung Cancer" 2020 report or lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact Jill Dale at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-940-7001.

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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