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Article Type: Blog

Kentucky Among States With Lowest Lung Cancer Survival Rates

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With lung cancer accounting for one in four cancer deaths in the United States, the American Lung Association recently released their State of Lung Cancer report for 2019 to give us a better understanding of state-by-state factors when it comes to detection, treatment and rate of survival. The findings tell us that while state of Kentucky is above average when it comes to receiving treatment and screening, we’re also well below average in incidence and survival rate.

According to the American Lung Association, more than 228,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and Kentucky ranks at the bottom when it comes to new cases, falling at 92.6 per 100,000 people. To better understand how Kentucky can continue the fight against lung cancer, we took a closer look at the association’s report and spoke to an AdventHealth expert, Dr. Utpal Bhanja, MD of Hematology and Oncology. 

Early Detection and Preventive Care

Preventive visits, including annual, low-dose CT scans, are crucial for those aged 55 and older and smokers in helping to detect lung cancer before the disease worsens. It’s also important to immediately seek the attention of a specialist if you’re experiencing symptoms. Dr. Bhanja tells us, “AdventHealth Manchester is home to a number of nationally renowned physicians. With early detection, we can treat or manage patients under the best of care.”

In the United States as a whole, 21.5% of patients are diagnosed with lung cancer at an early stage. And the earlier, the better.

The symptoms of lung cancer can vary by person, but it’s important to take action if you’re experiencing: 

  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs)
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Feeling very tired
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing

The chance of a cancer diagnosis increases with age, and smokers who experience any of the above symptoms should especially make sure they schedule a visit to their doctor’s office, as the earlier in life a person starts smoking and the more years they have smoked increases the risk of lung cancer even greater. According to the report, tobacco use is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 80 to 90% of cases.

According to Foundation For a Healthy Kentucky, nearly one in four Kentucky adults smoke. 

If you’re over 55 and a heavy smoker, your chances of getting lung cancer are significantly higher, and you may be eligible to take part in lung cancer screening to help with early detection. Learn more about prevention and screenings here. 

Treatment Options

The State of Lung Cancer report tells us that in Kentucky, we are above average when it comes to patients receiving treatment after being diagnosed. This could be for a number of reasons, but Dr. Bhanja explains, “Patients in Kentucky are becoming more educated on the dangers of lung cancer and more aware of when to seek treatment.”

Nationally, the average of those who receive no treatment for lung cancer was 15.5%, while Kentucky came in at 11% to 13.8%. According to the report, “No one should go untreated because of lack of provider or patient knowledge, stigma associated with lung cancer, fatalism after diagnosis, or cost of treatment.”

At AdventHealth, we would like to see not only Kentucky, but each and every state improve these statistics associated with lung cancer. Treatment options, including chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and immunotherapy, are all accessible through the AdventHealth Manchester and our physicians are available to help patients find the best option for them. 

Rate of Survival

A lung cancer diagnosis is scary enough, but the thought of not beating the vicious disease can be difficult to process. Lung cancer has one of the lowest five-year survival rates among cancers, because, according to the report, it is often not caught at an early stage when it’s more likely to be curable. 

The rate of people who are alive five years after being diagnosed has increased 26% over the last decade, from 17.2% to now 21.7%. In this study, Kentucky ranks at the bottom at 16.8% to 18.6%. This is compared to 26.4% in Connecticut and 16.8% in Alabama. 

“An annual, low dose CT scan can save your life,” says Dr. Bhanja. “The rate of survival is much greater for those patients who are diagnosed early on, and screenings are a huge part of that,” he adds. 

Experts at AdventHealth Manchester are ready to help fight the fight against lung cancer. To learn more about treatment options and find a dedicated specialist, click here

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