Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 870 of Hawai‘i 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, Native Hawaiians have higher mortality rates when compared to other ethnic groups, and the state can do more to improve the rates of screening for those who are at high risk for lung cancer.
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 national 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, in Hawai‘i the survival rate has been flat at 19.7% during this same time period, falling below the national average, with less than 20% of all new lung cancer diagnosis happening at the crucial early stages of the disease.
“One of the positives of the report is that the overall incidence rate of lung cancer in Hawaii has improved slightly over the past 5 years. This is overshadowed by the fact that Native Hawaiians bear the brunt of all new cases, with over 200% more cases per capita than their white or Asian counterparts” said Pedro Haro, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawai‘i. “Much more can and must be done on our islands to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease by increasing support for early screening.”
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 3.7% of those eligible in Hawai‘i have been screened.
“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Valerie Davison, Workplace Wellness Manager at the Hawai'i Health at Work Alliance. Davison’s sister died of lung cancer in 2015 at age 55 after being diagnosed with stage 4, non-small lung cancer. “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 Hawai‘i. I hope more people will take part in it as I know the pain of losing someone you love to this terrible disease.”
More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. In Hawai‘i 15.6% 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,” Haro said.
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.