American Lung Association’s ‘State of Lung Cancer’ Report Finds District of Columbia Among Worst States for Lung Cancer Early Diagnosis, Lack of Treatment and Survival

American Lung Association’s new report examines toll of lung cancer in the District, identifies opportunities to save lives with early diagnosis, improved access to treatment options

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 300 District of Columbia 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 the District can do more to improve lung cancer screening, early diagnosis, surgical treatment and survival rates.

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 the District, the survival rate is below average at 20.9% (ranking 28 out of 47). And, while the overall lung cancer new case incident rate in the District is among the best in the nation at 47.1 per 100,000 people (ranking 8 out of 51 states), the study finds that Black Americans in the community are twice as likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than white Americans (60.5 per 100,000 compared to 29.1 per 100,000 respectively). And, while the District ranks average in the nation for surgery as a first course of treatment at 22.2%; the study finds that Black Americans are 32% less likely in the District to receive surgery than white residents.

“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, D.C, DE, MD, VA, American Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done here to prevent the disease and support of those facing the disease.

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 (59%). The early diagnosis rate for the District is below average at 21%, but shows a 46% improvement over the last five years.

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, but only 5.7% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. “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 nationally and here in the District.”

More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. The District is among the worst in the nation for receiving treatment after diagnosis (ranking 45 out of 48 states measured) with 22.1% of those diagnosed not receiving any form of treatment.

“We urge the District to improve early diagnosis rates, lung health racial disparities and treatment to increase survival rates for all 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 diagnosis or treatment due to lack of access or cost,” Casper said.

Learn more about "State of Lung Cancer" at 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.

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]

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