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CT, NY among top states for early lung cancer diagnosis

A man smokes an electronic cigarette. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Nam Y. Huh
A man smokes an electronic cigarette.

According to an American Lung Association (ALA) report released Tuesday (today), Connecticut and New York are among leading states in both the early diagnosis of lung cancer as well as survival rates five years after a diagnosis. But, experts say both states still have room for improvement.

In New York, the ALA report states that Black residents are the least likely racial demographic to be diagnosed early. Michael Seilback is a state public policy expert for the ALA. He said the reason for that points to an issue with access to healthcare for Black New Yorkers.

“We know across many different health issues that Black individuals have barriers to access to quality and affordable healthcare,” he said. “That leads to outcomes that are worse than other populations.”

But on the whole, Seilback shared that early detection of lung cancer is happening more often in New York than the nation on average. Additionally, the state ranks #3 in the nation for survival five years after a diagnosis of lung cancer.

Connecticut is a leader in similar categories. The report shows that the state ranks #2 in both survival rates as well as early diagnosis. But, it lags behind lung cancer screening rates, coming in at #19 in the nation for getting residents screened for the disease.

Seilback broke down the numbers. He explained that while the early diagnosis numbers mean that doctors are catching almost a third of lung cancer cases at the early stage, when lung cancer is more treatable, the state is still struggling to promote lung cancer screening to those who are at risk. Seilback shares that low screening numbers likely have to do with the idea that lung cancer is untreatable.

“Lung cancer for a long time has had a stigma to it,” he said. “There was this belief that there was nothing you can do about it. There’s screening now. We know that when folks are screened, nodules that are potentially [cancerous] are found much earlier. “

In the report, the ALA urged the Connecticut General Assembly to take further steps in providing programs to prevent lung cancer. The report applauded the state government for establishing funding for screening programs, which amounted to almost $1 million, according to the ALA.

Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer deaths in both New York and Connecticut, as well as across the nation.

Eda Uzunlar is WSHU's Poynter Fellow for Media and Journalism.