Massachusetts has the best record in the country for screening, early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, according to the annual State of Lung Cancer report released Tuesday by the American Lung Association.
In Massachusetts, more than 30% of patients with lung cancer undergo surgery as part of the first course of treatment, which the report notes typically results in higher survival rates than those who delay surgery. And in the state, more than 86% of diagnosed lung cancer cases receive some form of treatment, per the report.
Lung cancer survival rates are improving nationally — about 26% of people with a lung cancer diagnosis are still alive after five years. (The report did not include survival rates broken down for Massachusetts.) The survival rate for people of color nationally has improved significantly, increasing 17% in the last two years, the report says.
Despite the good news, the ALA's Dan Fitzgerald said more could be done to improve access to screenings and patient outcomes. Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in Massachusetts and the U.S., according to Fitzgerald.
"Even with us being No. 1 in the nation in this report, there was only 11.9% of those eligible here in Massachusetts actually got a lung cancer screening," said Fitzgerald, director of advocacy for ALA in Massachusetts.
The CDC recommends adults ages 50 to 80 with a history of heavy smoking get lung cancer screenings every year.
In Massachusetts, the report zeroed in on a concerning health disparity that found Asian or Pacific Islander patients were the least likely of demographic groups to have their lung cancer detected in early stages.
Among Black individuals in Massachusetts, about 30% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in the early stages, which is far more often than the group's national rate of 23.2%. Although, the state's early detection rate for white residents was notably higher, at 33.7%.
Further, the rate of new lung cancer cases in the state was "significantly higher" (59.5%) than the national rate (54.6%). That's despite Massachusetts residents ranking sixth in the U.S. — behind Utah, California, Washington, D.C., Hawaii and Maryland — when it comes to the rate of smoking.