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TRENTON - Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 6,100 New Jersey residents will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone.  

According to a release, the 2020 “State of Lung Cancer” report from the American Lung Association, finds that while more Americans are surviving the disease, people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents, and New Jersey can do more to improve state screening rates and lung health racial disparities.  

The Third 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. For the first time, this year’s report explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic groups at the national and state levels. 

This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” 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 New Jersey, the survival rate is among the top in the nation, at 25.9% (ranking 3 of 47 states measured), a 15% improvement over the last five years. 

Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. New Jersey ranked average for early diagnosis, at 23.8% (14 out of 49 states measured), a 37% improvement over the last five years, and above average for surgery, as a first course of treatment, at 25.7%.  

However, Black Americans in New Jersey are 28% less likely to be diagnosed early than white Americans, latinos are 20% less likely than white Americans, and asian American or pacific islanders are 19% less likely than white Americans. Black Americans are also 31% less likely to receive surgical treatment than white Americans in the state. 

“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,” stated Michael Seilback, National AVP, State Public Policy, American Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done, in New Jersey, to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease. We urge New Jersey to improve lung cancer screening rates, and address lung health racial disparities to increase survival rates for all residents.”  

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, New Jersey screening is below average, with only 3.2% of those eligible in the state having been screened. 

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” stated Seilback. “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 New Jersey.” 

More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. 

In New Jersey, 14.4% of those diagnosed did not receive any form of treatment, with Black Americans 17% less likely to receive treatment than white Americans. 

“We want to ensure that everyone has access to treatment options and quality and affordable health care. No one who wants care should have to forgo treatment due to lack of access or cost,” Seilback stated.

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