More than 6,000 New Jersey residents are learning in 2019 that they have lung cancer. Chances are slim that half of these people will be alive five years from now.

A 2019 report from the American Lung Association finds that more people are surviving lung cancer — and New Jersey is one of the best performing states — but it remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women.

Up from 17.2% a decade ago, the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate sits at 21.7%.

In New Jersey, the rate is among the best at 25%, the association finds. The incident rate in New Jersey, though, is considered average — 56.6 new cases per 100,000 people.

Just 21.5% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, when the disease is most curable, the report says. That statistic is part of the reason that about four-fifths of diagnosed Americans are not still alive five years later.

"The simple test — lung cancer screening — is a powerful tool to save lives," said Michael Seilback, the association's national assistant vice president for state public policy. "Yet 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."

New Jersey ranks below average for high-risk patient screening; just 3% of eligible individuals were screened in 2018, according to the report.

If diagnosed at an early stage, lung cancer can often be treated with surgery. More than a quarter of lung cancer patients in New Jersey receive surgery as part of the first course of treatment, according to the report. A little more than 14% of New Jersey cases involve no treatment after diagnosis, for any number of reasons.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com