New Report: North Dakota Best in Nation for Lung Cancer Treatment, among Top for Screening and Early Diagnosis

Annual report by Lung Association finds more should be done to help toll of lung cancer on Indigenous peoples in North Dakota

Today, the American Lung Association released the annual “State of Lung Cancer” Report, which indicates that more people in North Dakota receive lung cancer treatment than any other state in the country. However, more Indigenous peoples than any other community are being diagnosed with lung cancer.

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 North Dakota, the survival rate is 22.8%, however, people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents, and the report finds that North Dakota can do more to improve lung cancer diagnosis rates among Indigenous peoples.

“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 Pat McKone, Senior Director for the Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in North Dakota to prevent the disease and support those facing it. We need to improve our lung cancer incidence rates in North Dakota and ensure that the Indigenous community is getting the resources needed to survive this deadly disease.”

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 460 North Dakota residents 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 9.6% of those eligible in North Dakota have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool that save lives,” said McKone. “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 North Dakota.”

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 North Dakota:

  • 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. North Dakota ranks 22nd (out of 51) in the nation, at a rate of 58.1% 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. North Dakota ranks 19th in the nation (out of 47 states with available data) for survival rates at 22.8% – Average.
  • Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 22.9% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher. North Dakota ranks 10th in the nation at 24.4% – Above 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. North Dakota ranks 30th in the nation at 18.8% – 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. North Dakota ranks 1st in the nation at 7.5% – Top in the Nation.
  • 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. North Dakota ranked 9th with 9.6% – 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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