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Lung cancer in Virginia: Report says more people need to be screened

Crystal Graham

american lung association The 2022 “State of Lung Cancer” report shows that only 7.6 percent of Virginia residents who are eligible have been screened for lung cancer.

The American Lung Association’s 5th annual report highlights the toll of lung cancer in Virginia and examines key indicators including new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates.

Nationally, the “State of Lung Cancer” report shows continued progress for lung cancer survival. The lung cancer five-year survival rate is now 25 percent and increased 21 percent from 2014 to 2018.

The report also highlights that people of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to white Americans, including lower survival rate, less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment and more likely to receive no treatment. In Virginia, Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders are 22 percent less likely to be diagnosed early at 20.3 percent than white Americans at 26 percent.

“Lung cancer screening is key to early diagnosis, and early diagnosis saves lives. Unfortunately, here in Virginia, not enough people are getting this lifesaving screening,” said Aleks Casper, director of advocacy at the American Lung Association. “We all can help reduce the burden of lung cancer in Virginia. 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.”

Currently, 14.2 million Americans meet the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for screening.

Under these guidelines, a person is eligible for lung cancer screening if they are:

  • Between 50-80 years of age
  • Have a 20 pack-year history (1 pack/day for 20 years, 2 packs/day for 10 years)
  • Are a current smoker
  • Former smoker who has quit within the last 15 years

Find out if you are eligible for lung cancer screening at SavedByTheScan.org.

The report found that the Commonwealth of Virginia ranked:

  • 15 in the nation for rate of new lung cancer cases at 53.9 per 100,000, marking a 12 percent improvement in the last five years. The national rate is 56.7 per 100,000 people.
  • 35 in the nation for early diagnosis at 25.1 percent, marking a 16 percent improvement in the last five years. Nationally, only 25.8 percent of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher.
  • 19 in the nation for lung cancer screening at 7.6 percent. Lung cancer screening with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20 percent. Nationally, only 5.8 percent of those at high risk were screened.
  • 21 in the nation for surgery at 20.4 percent. Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Nationally, 20.8 percent of cases underwent surgery.
  • 7 in the nation for lack of treatment at 17.2 percent. Nationally, 20.6 percent of cases receive no treatment.

“State of Lung Cancer” highlights that Virginia must do more to reduce the burden of lung cancer and encourages everyone to join the effort to end lung cancer.

Learn more about the report at Lung.org/solc.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.