American Lung Association’s ‘State of Lung Cancer’ Report Finds Alaska Near Bottom of States for Lung Cancer Early Diagnosis and Survival

New report examines toll of lung cancer in Alaska, identifies opportunities to save lives with screening for high risk individuals.

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it is estimated that 400 Alaskans 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 Alaska can do more to improve screenings for high risk individuals.  

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 Alaska, the survival rate is 18.4%, and though the rate of early stage diagnosis has improved, it is still ranked 42nd in the nation.

“While more Americans are surviving lung cancer, too many people are being left behind, and the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Marge Stoneking, Executive Director, American Lung Association. “The good news is that Alaska is heading in the right direction in that we’ve worked to improve and expand lung cancer screening audiences and are now screening 6.4% of high risk Alaskans, which is above the national average of 5.7%”

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 22.9% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. While this simple screening test has been available since 2015, only 6.4% of those eligible in Alaska have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Stoneking. “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 Alaska.”

More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. In Alaska, 16% of those diagnosed did not receive any form of treatment.

“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,” Stoneking 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 Bo Smith at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 310-359-6386.

For more information, contact:

Bo Smith
310-359-6386
[email protected]

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