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New Report Reveals Kentucky Highest Lung Cancer Rates in the Nation; Low Survival Rates

Nov 13, 2019

Credit NPR

The American Lung Association has released the annual “State of Lung Cancer” Report, which reveals that Kentucky has the highest lung cancer incidence rates in the nation, as well as some of the lowest survival rates. However, the state ranks well for lung cancer screening rates.

The 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.

This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” seeks to continue the positive trend of increased lung cancer survival, as the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate of 21.7%, up from 17.2% a decade ago, reflects a 26% improvement over the past 10 years. Here in Kentucky, the survival rate is 17.6%, which is one of the lowest lung cancer survival rate in the nation.

“While we celebrate that more Americans than ever are surviving lung cancer, the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths, and much more can and must be done in Kentucky to prevent the disease and support families facing the disease,” said Shannon Baker, director of advocacy for the Lung Association.

Part of the reason that lung cancer is so deadly is because most lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage, after the disease has spread. Lung cancer screening is the key to early detection, when the disease is most curable, but only 21.5% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. While this screening test has been available since 2015, only 4.2% of those eligible nationally have been screened.

“This simple test - lung cancer screening - is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Baker. “Fortunately, Kentucky ranks fourth best in the nation for lung cancer screening at a rate of 10.3%. However, there is much more work that needs to be done, so we’re pushing for greater awareness of this test to save more lives here in Kentucky.”

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 Kentucky:

•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 59.6. Kentucky has the highest lung cancer incidence rate in the nation (ranked 51st out of 51), at a rate of 92.6 people out of 100,000 people.

•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. Kentucky ranks as one of the lowest in the nation (41st out of 45) for survival rates at 17.6%.

•Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 21.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher. Unfortunately, about 48.5% of cases are not caught until a late stage when the survival rate is only 6%. Kentucky ranks 44rd in the nation (below average) at 18.8%.

•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. Kentucky ranks 20th in the nation (average) at 20.2%.

•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 15.4% of cases receive no treatment. Kentucky ranks among best (5th in the nation) at 11.3%.

•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 4.2% of those who qualify were screened. Kentucky ranked among the best (4th in the nation) with 10.3%. 

Learn more about "State of Lung Cancer" at http://Lung.org/solc

The American Lung Association’s “State of Lung Cancer” 2019 is the second report we have released on key lung cancer statistics for each state. The 2019 report uses data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American College of Radiology (ACR), among other sources. Analysis of this data is conducted by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics team.

(provided by the American Lung Association in Kentucky)