American Lung Association’s ‘State of Lung Cancer’ Report Finds Rhode Island Ranks as a Top 10 State for Early Diagnosis, 5-Year Survival, Surgery, Screenings and Access to Treatment

American Lung Association’s new report examines toll of lung cancer in Rhode Island, identifies high rate of new cases as an opportunity to save lives

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 920 Rhode Island residents will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone. The 2020 “State of Lung Cancer” report from the American Lung Association examines the toll of lung cancer throughout the nation and outlines steps every state can take to better protect its residents from lung cancer. The report finds that while Rhode Island was ranked as a top 10 state in 5 out of 6 categories, the rate of new lung cancer cases in the state was higher than average (69.8 per every 100,000), highlighting the work that must still be done. 

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 report finds that while more Americans are surviving the disease, nationally people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents. Although this report did not indicate that Rhode Island had substantial lung cancer health disparities, every state can do more to ensure no one faces lung cancer alone.

The 3rd annual “State of Lung Cancer” report 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 Rhode Island the survival rate is 25.9%, showing a 5 year improvement of 16% and earing it a third place ranking out of 47 states reporting survival data. The report also found that the state earned top 10 rankings for early diagnosis (25.7%), surgery as part of the first course of treatment (28.2), high risk people receiving screenings (10.5%), and for the number of people receiving no treatment (11%).

“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 Daniel Fitzgerald, Senior Manager of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Rhode Island. “One local takeaway from the report is that much more can and must be done in Rhode Island to prevent the disease, as we are seeing a greater number of new cases here in Rhode Island than elsewhere.”

“It’s great to see the progress that Rhode Island has made for lung cancer patients, but we still have work to do,” said Dr. Saurabh Agarwal, a Cardiothoracic Radiologist at Rhode Island Medical Imaging and Brown University, Warren Alpert School of Medicine. “Our incidence rate is far too high, and we must continue to get our high risk population into early diagnosis screenings if we want to save lives.”

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. This simple screening test has been available since 2015, and while Rhode Island ranked 6th out of 49 states in this category, only 10.5% of those eligible in Rhode Island have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Dr. Agarwal. “Unfortunately, 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 Rhode Island.”

More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. Rhode Island ranked as the 7th best state in this category, but still 11% 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,” Fitzgerald 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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