Overall lung cancer survival remains low in people of color despite rising rates nationwide


Despite the increased 5-year survival nationwide for lung cancer patients, patients of color continue to have poor survival.

Although national 5-year lung cancer survival rates have increased from 14.5% to 23.7%, research indicates survival continues to be low in people of color, according to State of Lung report American Lung Association Cancer.1

The report stated that communities of color had a 5-year survival rate of 20%, with black patients specifically having an 18% survival rate. Additionally, black patients were 18% less likely to receive an early diagnosis and 23% less likely to receive surgical treatment compared to white patients. Additionally, black patients were 9% more likely to have no type of treatment and 21% less likely to survive for 5 years compared to their white counterparts.

“Report highlights important news: more people are surviving lung cancer; However, it also highlights the fact that, sadly, health disparities persist for communities of color. … Everyone deserves the opportunity to lead full and healthy lives, so more needs to be done to address these health disparities, ”said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the Lung Association, in A press release.2

The State of Lung Cancer report assesses the burden of lung cancer among different racial and ethnic groups both nationally and state level. The 2021 report also explored the potential of lung cancer screenings, as well as other important advancements in the space that could help improve treatment options.

The report does not take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on diagnosis, treatment or survival since the included data predated the virus.

The United States Preventive Service Task Force expanded its recommendations for lung cancer screening in March 2021 based on new findings to include a wider age range, as well as other current and former smokers. . The changes have dramatically increased screening for black and female patients at high risk for lung cancer.

Although testing rates increased nationwide following the recommendations, the rate did not change from 2019 to 2020. However, this was likely due to lockdowns put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the state level, survival was better in Connecticut (28.8%) and worse in Alabama (18.4%). Rates of early diagnosis (30%) and screening for lung cancer (17.8%) were highest in Massachusetts. Additionally, Hawaii had the worst early diagnosis rates (19%) and California and Wyoming had the lowest detection rates (1.0%).

Other results from the report indicated that Latino patients were 16% less likely to receive an early diagnosis and were as likely to have surgery as their white counterparts. In addition, Latino patients were 26% more likely to be untreated, as well as 16% less likely to survive beyond 5 years compared to white patients.

In the Asian American / Pacific Islander population, patients were 18% less likely to be diagnosed early and 5% more likely not to have any type of treatment compared to white patients. Notably, the population was 17% more likely to have surgery and 9% more likely to survive for up to 5 years compared to white patients, which sets them apart from other racial groups.

Indigenous people were 17% less likely to be diagnosed early with lung cancer, as well as 25% less likely to have surgery compared to their white counterparts. They were also 11% less likely and 13% less likely to have no type of treatment or survive for 5 years, respectively.

Nationally, the report indicated that 24% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage with an overall high 5-year survival rate of 60%. However, lung cancer was more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage (46%) with a significantly lower survival rate (6%). The use of annual low-dose CT scans for patients at high risk of lung cancer has been shown to reduce the death rate by up to 20%. However, only 5.7% of high risk patients were screened.

Although early stage lung cancer that has not spread can be treated with surgery, only 20.7% of patients have had surgery. Investigators believe there are several reasons why patients may not follow treatment, including provider / patient lack of knowledge, stigma associated with a lung cancer diagnosis, post-diagnosis fatalism, and cost. Potentially because of this, 21.1% of patients did not receive treatment.

The references

  1. Main findings on lung cancer. American Lung Association State of Lung Cancer. Updated November 12, 2021. Accessed November 17, 2021. https://bit.ly/3nnUZDi
  2. New report: Lung cancer survival has increased, but remains significantly lower for people of color. Press release. American Lung Association. November 16, 2021. Accessed November 17, 2021. https://bit.ly/3kKPyg8


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