New Report: Iowa Among Worst in Nation for Lung Cancer Early Diagnosis

Annual report by Lung Association examines toll of lung cancer in Iowa

Today, the American Lung Association released the annual “State of Lung Cancer” Report, which reveals that Iowa has one of the lowest rates in the nation for the early diagnosis of lung cancer. However, the state ranks 7th best in the nation for lung cancer screening.

The 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.

The third annual report finds that more Americans are surviving the disease, as the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate of 22.6% reflects a 13% improvement over the past five years. In Iowa, the survival rate is 20%, however, people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents, and the report finds that Iowa can do more to improve surgical treatment rates among the Black community.

“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 Alyssa DePhillips, Manager of Health Promotions for the Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in Iowa to prevent the disease and support those facing it. We need to improve early diagnosis in Iowa and ensure that the Black community is getting the surgical treatment needed to survive this deadly disease.”

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 2,440 Iowans will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone.

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 10.4% of those eligible in Iowa have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool that save lives,” said DePhillips. “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 Iowa.”

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 Iowa:

  • Incidence: Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. On average, the higher prevalence of smoking, the more lung cancer cases in a state. The national lung cancer incidence rate is 58.7. Iowa has the 31st highest lung cancer incidence rate in the nation, at a rate of 63.7 people out of 100,000 people – Average.
  • 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. Iowa ranks 35th worst in the nation (out of 47 states with available data) for survival rates at 20.0% – Below Average.
  • Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 22.9% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher. Iowa ranks 44th in the nation at 20% – Below Average.
  • 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. Iowa ranks 38th in the nation at 17.7% – Below Average.
  • 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. Iowa ranks 29th in the nation at 16.3% – Average.
  • Screening and Prevention: Screening for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans among those who qualify can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 5.7% of those who qualify were screened. Iowa ranked among the best in the nation (7th best) with 10.4% – Above Average.

Learn more about the "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 a lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact James A. Martinez at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-445-2501.

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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