Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 5,960 Virginia 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 Virginia can do more to improve screening rates and lung health racial disparities in the state.
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. In Virginia the survival rate is among the average at 22.7% (ranking 21 of 47 states measured).
The stage at which someone is diagnosed with lung cancer varies significantly by state. Nationally, only 22.9% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher at 59%. In Virginia, early diagnosis in the state is average at 22.4%. However, Latinos in Virginia are 23% less likely to be diagnosed early than white Virginians. Black Virginians are also 13% less likely to receive early diagnosis than white Virginians.
Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Virginia ranked average for surgery at 20.4% (ranking 20 out of 49 states measured); though Black Americans were 16% less likely to receive surgery as a first course of treatment compared to white Americans.
“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 Aleks Casper, Advocacy Director, VA, D.C. DE, MD, American Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in Virginia to prevent the disease and support all those facing the disease.”
Part of the reason that lung cancer is so deadly is because most cases are diagnosed at a later stage, after the disease has spread. Lung cancer screening is the key to catching lung cancer early when the disease is most curable. While this simple screening test has been available since 2015, only 7.6% of those eligible in Virginia have been screened.
“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Casper. “It’s a relatively new test, and we’re only seeing a fraction of those who qualify actually getting screened. We’re pushing for greater awareness of this test to save more lives here in Virginia.”
More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. While Virginia ranks above average for treatment with 11.5% of those diagnosed not receiving any form of treatment (ranking 9 out of 48 states measured), there is much more to be done to protect the lung health of Virginia residents.
“We want to ensure that everyone has access to treatment options and quality and affordable healthcare. No one who wants care should have to forgo treatment due to lack of access or cost,” Casper said.
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 Val Gleason at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 717-971-1123.
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 education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. 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.