New Report: North Carolina Has Higher Lung Cancer Rate Than Most States

American Lung Association’s new report examines toll of lung cancer in North Carolina, identifies opportunities to save lives through improved access to screening, treatment

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 8,470 North Carolina 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 North Carolina can do more to reduce lung cancer rates, and improve access to screening and treatment for the disease.

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. North Carolina’s lung cancer survival rate aligns with the national average at 22%.

“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 June Deen, director of advocacy for the Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in North Carolina 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 North Carolina:

  • Incidence: Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. The national lung cancer incidence rate is 58.7. North Carolina was ranked 41st in the nation for lung cancer incidence (below average) at a rate of 68 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. North Carolina was ranked 24th in the nation (average) at 22%.
  • Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 22.9% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher. North Carolina ranks 30th in the nation (average) at 22.6%.
  • 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. North Carolina ranks 29th in the nation (below average) at 19%.
  • 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. North Carolina ranks 15th in the nation (above average) at 13.4%.
  • 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. North Carolina ranked 16th in the nation (average) with 7.8%. 
  • 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 North Carolina, Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders are least likely to be diagnosed 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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