An estimated 2,760 people in Connecticut will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2022 with nearly half potentially dying from the disease, according to the American Lung Association.
Yet survey data, released Monday- World Lung Cancer Day -, shows that only 40% of Americans are even worried they will get lung cancer with only 1 in 5 actually talking to a doctor about the risk of getting lung cancer.
The American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative released the 2022 Lung Health Barometer, a national survey that examines awareness, attitudes and beliefs about lung cancer, officials said.said. The 2022 Lung Health Barometer surveyed 4,000 Americans nationwide about lung cancer.
Ruth Canovi, director of advocacy at the Lung Association in Connecticut, said as awareness increases, residents will be more likely to talk to their doctors about their individual risks of lung cancer, which will lead to catching it early and beginning treatment.
“Since 2016, the Food and Drug Administration has approved 45 new treatments for lung cancer,” Canovi said.
Canovi said that while many think of lung cancer as something a smoker will be diagnosed with, she said there are other causes – such as radon and exposure to outdoor air pollutants.
“I think for a long time lung cancer has had a lot of stigma associated with it,” she said. “Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. It’s considered a ‘smokers’ disease’, and while we certainly understand it’s a huge risk, a lot of times people get addicted at a really young age. When it comes down to it, nobody deserves to get lung cancer.”
Health scans are an effective way to see if someone has lung cancer, yet only 8 percent of those at high risk for lung cancer have received a low-dose CT scan lung cancer screening, Canovi said. If more people get these screenings, the higher the potential to get an early diagnosis.
Canovi encouraged those who are at high risk to get the scan. Those eligible for a scan are those who are: between 50 and 80 years old, have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years. More information about lung cancer screening can be found at SavedbytheScan.org.
“We always encourage people to talk to their healthcare providers too,” Canovi said. “This has the potential to save a lot of lives.”
The percent of people alive five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer in Connecticut is 29%, which is significantly higher than the national rate of 24%.
If lung cancer is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving five or more years increases to 60%, Canovi said.
Canovi said while there has been progress over the years in terms of treatment, public awareness needs to continue. There are volunteers who share their stories, including some incorrectly thinking coughing was due to another condition, such as pneumonia.
“The fact that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths is often surprising to people,” Canovi said.
Among other key findings:
- Only about one in four respondents (26%) were aware that the lung cancer survival rate increased by over 30% in the past ten years.
- 73% of adults have not spoken with their doctor about their risk for lung cancer and only 40% are concerned they might get the disease.
- Only 29% of Americans know that lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the U.S.
- Nearly 70% of respondents were not familiar with the availability of lung cancer screening for early detection of the disease.