The state of lung cancer: See what NJ is doing right and wrong
The burden of lung cancer is still a heavy one in the Garden State.
And while it's the leading cause of cancer deaths in New Jersey and across the nation, advocates say it still doesn't get the attention it deserves.
A new state-by-state report from the American Lung Association suggests that many New Jerseyans with lung cancer are catching the disease early on, giving themselves plenty of options for survival. But the same report suggests that screening is still lacking in the state.
The 2023 State of Lung Cancer report ranks New Jersey 38th for cancer screening. Screening of those at high risk can reduce the death rate by up to 20%, the report says, but just 2.7% of eligible individuals are taking this important step in New Jersey.
Updated recommendations from the American Cancer Society call for yearly CT scans for people aged 50 to 80 who smoke or have smoked.
"We want to see more eligible New Jersey residents get screened for lung cancer," said Michael Seilback, national assistant vice president for state public policy at the American Lung Association.
More than 20% of New Jersey's lung cancer cases receive no treatment, according to the report — the disease is either too advanced when it's first detected, for example, or patients opt for no treatment.
Representing a 19% improvement over the past five years, New Jersey ranks 14th for the rate of new lung cancer cases (51.8 per 100,000 people), according to the report.
New Jersey is among the best in the nation (No. 4) for the rate of cases that feature surgery as a first course of treatment. When surgery is an option, that likely means the patient has caught the disease in an early stage and it hasn't spread.
According to the report, 27.7% of lung cancer cases in the Garden State are "diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher."
Overall, the American Lung Association report found that lung cancer survival rates are improving for everyone, including people of color. The five-year survival rate for people of color has increased by 17% in the last two years.
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