American Lung Association’s ‘State of Lung Cancer’ Report Finds Massachusetts Best State in the Nation for Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

American Lung Association’s new report examines toll of lung cancer in Massachusetts, identifies disparity in early diagnosis of Asian Americans

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 5,150 Massachusetts residents will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone. The 2020 “State of Lung Cancer” report from the American Lung Association finds Massachusetts had the best record in three categories: early diagnosis of lung cancer, screening of high-risk people, and for surgery as a first course of treatment. 

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. Nationally, the report finds that while more Americans are surviving the disease, people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents.  In Massachusetts, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are 30% less likely to benefit from early diagnosis than white residents.

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 Massachusetts the survival rate was unavailable, but it earned top rankings on early diagnosis, surgery and screening, as well as recording one of the best smoking rates in the country (13.4%).

“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,” Karen Whitefield, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. “Much more can and must be done in Massachusetts to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease – especially when it comes to getting more high risk people to screenings.”

Dr. Andrea McKee, Director of the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center said, “Massachusetts is the best state in the nation for screening high risk people, but still we’ve only screening 18.5% of those eligible. That’s a wake-up call. If we can do more to get those at high risk into screenings, we will see early diagnoses and survival rates go way up.”

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 18.5% of those eligible in Massachusetts have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said McKee. “It’s a relatively new test, and awareness is key. We are working to bring more awareness of screenings to the general public, but also to continue to push the medical community to offer these screenings to high risk patients, the same way they encourage tests like colonoscopies and mammograms.”

More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. In Massachusetts 9.4% 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,” Whitefield 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 Jennifer Solomon at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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