The survival rate for patients with lung cancer has increased to the point where now almost one-quarter of the patients diagnosed with lung cancer are alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Looking back on previous years the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer has increased by 14.5% over the past 5 years. Lung cancer, detected in early stages, can actually be cured, and even in later stages there are now therapies which can impact survival in a very positive fashion.
The common denominator to the survival statistics is early detection. Over the past 5 years the rate of newly detected lung cancers has decreased to 10%. However, in almost half of the cases, the disease was diagnosed in late stages. When diagnosed at a late stage, the 5-years survival rate drops to 6%; whereas, when the disease is diagnosed early, the 5-year survival rate is 60%. Currently, about 24% of the cases of lung cancer are diagnosed at an early stage, but this varies across the U.S. The highest rate is in Massachusetts at 30% and lowest in Hawaii at 19%.
Screening patients at risk for lung cancer with annual low dose CT scanning of the chest is the reason for the improvement in early diagnosis, but only 5.7 % of the patients at risk are being screened. Annual screening with CT scans is such a powerful tool that even with only 5.7% of the eligible patients being screened, the overall survival rate has improved. Imagine if we screened 100