Lung Cancer Report: Gains Being Made, Disparities Exist In Wisconsin

Nov 17, 2020

A new report on lung cancer says some gains are being made against the disease, but that not all races and ethnic groups are making the same amount of progress.

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and the American Lung Association estimates that about 4,300 Wisconsin residents are being diagnosed with the disease this year.

The association released its annual State of Lung Cancer report. Spokesperson Dr. David Tom Cooke of the University of California-Davis says there is some positive news.

"The good news is the death rate from lung cancer, or the mortality, has dropped 13% over the last five years. So, the survival rate has increased up to 22.6% nationally,” he says.

Cooke also says more people are being screened for lung cancer. But he says nationally, the percentage of people eligible for screening who actually get a CT or CAT scan remains at just under 6%. That's even though public insurance plans and some private ones are supposed to pick up the cost. Wisconsin's screening rate is about 11%.

Takeaways from the State of Lung Cancer 2020 Report for Wisconsin.
Credit American Lung Association

For the first time, the American Lung Association has taken a look at racial disparities in lung cancer.

Cooke says Wisconsin has a problem. About 13% of those diagnosed in the state did not receive any form of treatment, with higher rates in the Black population.

“So, there's room for improvement. What are the causes of these disparities? We need to look ourselves in the mirror and see how we are treating our community members,” Cooke says.

Nationally, Blacks and Latinos also trail whites in early diagnosis of lung cancer and surgery options. Cooke says lung association surveys of men and women have found only about 15% know that a lung screening is usually a covered benefit. He says he hopes more doctors recommend the test for high-risk patients.

"I'm not a person to blame the patient. I believe in patient activation. So, really informing our patients about this data so they can ask their doctor, ‘Am I eligible for lung cancer screening?’ " Cooke says.

Cooke says the actual screening at a medical facility takes less than five minutes.