Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Less than 6 percent of eligible people get screened for lung cancer

Survival rates remain low but have improved nationally.
two pairs of hands cupping paper cutout in shape of lungs

Story at a glance

  • Nationally, lung cancer five-year survival rate is about 25 percent.

  • Lung screening can catch cancer early, especially for people who are at high risk.

  • Less than 6 percent of high-risk people have gotten screened for lung cancer, according to a new report.

The 2022 “State of Lung Cancer” report from the American Lung Association highlights the need for screening and for particular attention to be paid to differences in lung cancer burden among demographic groups. 

According to the report, only 5.8 percent of eligible people have been screened for lung cancer. In some states, that figure is as low as 1 percent of eligible people. 

There are about 14.2 million people who are eligible for lung cancer screening, according to the organization. People who are eligible fall under the following criteria: being 50-80 years of age, having a 20 pack-year history (e.g. 1 pack per day for 20 years or 2 packs per day for 10 years) and being a current smoker or having quit within the last 15 years. 

Nationally, the number of new cases diagnosed each year has declined by 11 percent, according to the report. However, lung cancer rates vary widely by state. 

Among the worst are Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas, which all have incidence rates of about 80 to 87 cases per 100,000 people. 

Lung cancer rates are the lowest in Utah and New Mexico, which have incidence rates between 26 and 37 cases per 100,000 people. 

Survival rates for lung cancer are low compared to other types of cancer, with the overall five-year survival rate being 25 percent. This means that 25 percent of people are alive five years after their diagnosis. This is partially due to lung cancer typically getting diagnosed at later stages of the disease when it is less likely to be curable, states the report. 

Despite the survival rate remaining low, it has been improving in recent years.

“While lung cancer screening remains underutilized, our new report revealed continued progress for lung cancer survival,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO for the American Lung Association, in a press release. “The lung cancer five-year survival rate is now 25% and increased 21% from 2014 to 2018.”  

Rhode Island has the highest lung cancer five-year survival rate at nearly 31 percent. The lowest survival rate was in Oklahoma, at 19.7 percent. 

The report highlights the differences between lung cancer survival rates, diagnoses and treatment in different racial groups. People of color have a lower survival rate from lung cancer than white people and are less likely to be diagnosed early. Black people with lung cancer are 15 percent less likely to get an early diagnosis than white people, according to the report. They are also less likely to get surgical treatment, or any treatment at all. They are 12 percent less likely than white people to survive five years post diagnosis. 

People who identify themselves as Latinx, Asian or Pacific Islander or Native American are all similarly less likely to get an early diagnosis for lung cancer. Latinx and Native American people are 25 and 23 percent, respectively, less likely than white people to survive five years.  

“Increased lung cancer survival is attributable to advancements in research, better treatments and other factors, however, lung cancer screening is the most immediate opportunity we have to save lives,” said Wimmer. “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.”