Lung cancer in NJ – survival rate rising, but screening rate very low

More patients in New Jersey are surviving their battle with lung cancer, but the survival rate would be even higher if more people had acted early enough to detect the problem, according to a state-by-state report released Tuesday by the American Lung Association.

The 4th Annual State of Lung Cancer Report records mixed results for the Garden State.

New Jersey ranks No. 5 in the country for survival, with 27.5% of lung cancer patients at least five years after their diagnosis, according to the report. The rate represents an 18% improvement over the past five years.

The state also ranks 5th for the share of cases (25.7%) undergoing surgery as first treatment.

“When surgery is this first option, the prognosis improves dramatically,” said Michael Seilback, assistant national vice president for public policy for the American Lung Association.

According to the report, New Jersey has seen a major improvement – 48% over five years – in early diagnosis. More than a quarter of cases are diagnosed at an early stage, when surgery is more likely an option and five-year survival is much higher.

However, New Jersey is among the worst states for lung cancer screening, according to the report. Only 3% of people considered to be at high risk – based on their age and smoking history – have annual low-dose CT scans. These scans can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%, the American Lung Association said.

“When people are screened, you find cancer much sooner, sometimes even before you have any symptoms,” Seilback said.

New Jersey is ranked 32nd among states for the share of untreated lung cancer cases (22%). The American Lung Association noted that some cases can be caught so late that a viable course of action is not available, but said no one should go untreated because of the stigma associated with lung cancer, lack of provider or patient knowledge, or cost of treatment.

The report pointed out that people of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes than white people. For example, blacks in New Jersey are 33% more likely to receive no treatment than white residents. Latin Americans in New Jersey are 16% more likely to receive no treatment than White Americans.

In March 2021, the United States Prevention Services Task Force broadened its recommendation for lung cancer screening to include a wider age range and more current or former smokers.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]

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