Hawai‘i ranks below average for lung cancer survival rates, early diagnosis

November 13, 2019, 7:55 AM HST (Updated November 13, 2019, 7:55 AM)
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Hawai‘i ranks below average for lung cancer survival rates and early diagnosis according to a recently released report from the American Lung Association.

The second annual report shows that national survival rates continue to increase and explores how states can act on saving more lives. 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.

While an estimated 860 Hawai‘i residents were diagnosed with lung cancer this year, the report indicates more people are surviving.

This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” report 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 percent improvement over the past 10 years.

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In Hawai‘i, the survival rate is rate is 18.7% putting the state 36th out of 45 states that collected data.

“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 Hawai‘i to prevent lung cancer and support families facing the disease,” said Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Hawai‘i.

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. Hawai‘i ranks 47th out of 48 states for early stage diagnosis. Lung cancer screening is the key to early detection, when the disease is most curable, but only 21.5 percent of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. While this simple screening test has been available since 2015, only 2.7% of those eligible in Hawai‘i have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Nyssen. “Yet we’re only seeing a fraction of those who qualify actually getting screened. Greater awareness of this test to save more lives in Hawai‘i.”

The 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, and this year’s report finds Hawaii can do more to protect residents from lung cancer. Below are the key findings for Hawai‘i.

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. Hawaii ranks 33rd out of 48 at 18.6%.

Early Diagnosis: Nationally, only 21.5 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher (57.7%. Hawaii ranks 47th out of 48 at 17.6 percent.

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 percent of cases underwent surgery. Hawai‘i ranks 33rd out of 48 with 18.6%.

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 percent. Nationally, only 4.2 percent of those who qualify were screened. Hawai‘i ranked below average with 2.7 percent.

Learn more about “State of Lung Cancer” at Lung.org/solc.

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