OMAHA, NE | November 17, 2020
Today, the American Lung Association released the annual “State of Lung Cancer” Report, which indicates that Nebraska has some of the highest lung cancer rates in the nation, along with some of the lowest survival rates. The state also ranks poorly in that Nebraska’s Black community is least likely to receive surgical treatment for 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 Nebraska, the survival rate is 20.8%, however, people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents, and the report finds that Nebraska can do more to ensure the Black community is receiving the surgical treatment it needs to survive.
“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 Julia McCarville, Executive Director for the Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in Nebraska to prevent the disease and support those facing it. We need to improve our early diagnosis rates in Nebraska and ensure that the Black 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 1,270 Nebraska 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 5.2% of those eligible in Nebraska have been screened.
“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool that save lives,” said McCarville. “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 Nebraska.”
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 Nebraska:
- 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. Nebraska ranks 20th (out of 51) in the nation, at a rate of 57.4% 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. Nebraska ranks 29th in the nation (out of 47 states with available data) for survival rates at 20.8% – Below Average.
- Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 22.9% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher. Nebraska ranks 22nd in the nation at 23.1% – 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. Nebraska ranks 18th in the nation at 20.8%– 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. Nebraska ranks 33rd in the nation at 17.2% – 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. Nebraska ranked 34th with 5.2% – Average.
Learn more about the "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 a lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact James A. Martinez at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-445-2501.
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, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.
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