Amid Lung Cancer Awareness month, a new report finds that New Jersey residents who are eligible aren’t taking advantage of being screened for the disease, which is among the leading cause of cancer deaths.
In the Garden State, just 3.7% of residents have been screened for lung cancer, according to the 2022 State of Lung Cancer report released by the American Lung Association Nov. 15. In spite of that, New Jersey was identified as having one of the top survival rates for the disease, coming in above the national average at 28.5% — a 19% improvement over the past five years.
The national number itself is an indicator of growth, as well, with the fifth annual report showing an increase in the lung cancer five-year survival rate nationwide, from 21% to 25%.
According to a statement from Michael Seilback, assistant vice president for national public policy at the ALA, the deficit in screenings and survival go hand in hand.
“Lung cancer screening is key to early diagnosis, and early diagnosis saves lives. Unfortunately, here in New Jersey, not enough people are getting this lifesaving screening,” he said in a statement.
The American Lung Association estimates that nearly 6,000 people in New Jersey will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and that 2,930 of them will die from the disease. Nationally, close to 237,000 people are expected to be diagnosed in 2022.
Among diagnoses, the report found that outcomes are not equal, with people of color more likely to face worse outcomes compared with white Americans. In New Jersey, Black patients were most likely to receive no treatment at all, at 34% less than their white counterparts.
Risk factors for lung cancer include: tobacco use, secondhand smoke, radon and exposure to year-round particle pollution. New Jersey ranked third among states for tobacco use, at 11% significantly lower than the national 14% rate. For radon, though, the state achieved “above average” distinction, with 10% of tests for the odorless and colorless gas at or above the action level set by the Environmental Protection Authority.
Other key New Jersey findings from the report showed a mixed bag when it comes to the state’s comparison to others nationwide. N.J. was:
- No. 4 for surgery (26.1%), a treatment option for early-stage diagnoses that have not spread. Nationally, 20.8% of cases underwent surgery.
- No. 16 for new lung cancer cases (54 per 100,000) — an 11% improvement over the past five years and under the national rate of 56.7 per 100,000.
- No. 16 for early diagnosis (26.8%) with a 17% improvement over the previous five years.
- No. 32 for lack of treatment, though posting an 11% improvement over the past five years to 21.3%.
- No. 39 in the nation for lung cancer screening.
According to the ALA, its annual report aims to increase awareness surrounding lung cancer screening for high-risk individuals by way of the Cancer Moonshot initiative’s three goals: to accelerate scientific discovery in cancer, foster collaboration and improve sharing of data. Launched in 2016, the initiative was recently bolstered by new goals from President Joe Biden to reduce the cancer death rate by half within 25 years and to improve the lives of people with cancer and survivors.
Under U.S. Preventative Services Task Force guidelines, a person is eligible for lung cancer screening if they are:
- between 50 and 80 years of age
- have a 20 pack-year history of smoking (one pack per day for 20 years, two packs per day for 10 years), or
- are a current smoker or have quit in the past 15 years.
“We all can help reduce the burden of lung cancer in New Jersey,” Seilback said. “If you are eligible for lung cancer screening, we encourage you to speak with your doctor about it. If a loved one is eligible, please encourage them to get screened.”
You can find out if you’re eligible for a scan here.