CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A new report finds that Wyoming is one of the worst states for lung cancer screenings. The state was also found to fall behind in other pertinent prevention and treatment categories.
On Tuesday, the American Lung Association released its annual “State of Lung Cancer” report. The organization states that Wyoming lags behind other states in other areas such as surgery, survival and lack of treatment.
Nick Torres, advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Wyoming, says in the report that lung cancer survival rates have improved nationwide for everyone, including people of color, due to increased awareness, improved access to healthcare and new treatment methods. For instance, in the past two years alone, the five-year lung cancer survival rate for people of color has increased by 17%.
“Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths here in Wyoming and across the nation, and our recent report makes it clear that we have more work to do to increase lung cancer screening and surgical intervention,” Torres says.
What causes lung cancer?
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also the third most common type of cancer, behind prostate and breast cancer. The ALA cites a variety of factors that cause lung cancer, including smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Effective ways to reduce lung cancer risk include:
- Regularly testing radon levels in homes and installing radon reduction systems
- Healthy air protections
- Reducing the smoking rate via tobacco tax increases, smoke-free air laws and access to quit smoking programs
State of lung cancer in Wyoming
In its 2023 report, the ALA compared Wyoming to other states with available data in several key categories related to lung cancer detection, treatment and survival. Here is where the Cowboy State ranked in each:
Rate of new lung cancer cases – 5 out of 48
Wyoming is measured to have 40.7 cases of lung cancer per 100,000 individuals. The national rate is 56.4 per 100,000. Utah ranked the best while Kentucky was worst.
Five-year survival rate – 34 out of 42
Wyoming’s survival rate is 23%. The nationwide rate of people who survive a lung cancer diagnosis after five years is 26.6%. Rhode Island ranked best with a 33.3% survival rate, and Oklahoma came last with 21.2%.
Early diagnosis – 15 out of 47
The percentage of cases diagnosed at an early stage in Wyoming is 27.9%, which is higher than the national average of 26.6%.
Screening – 50 out of 51
Wyoming’s lung cancer screening rate for individuals at high risk of lung cancer is only at 1%. Nationwide, 4.5% of the high-risk population were screened. Massachusetts has the best rate at 11.9%, with California standing as the worst at 0.7%
Surgery – 44 out of 47
The rate of diagnosed lung cancer patients in Wyoming who receive surgery is at 15.6%. The national rate is 20.8%
Lack of treatment – 31 out of 47
The rate of untreated cases in Wyoming is 21%, which is comparable to the national rate of 20.6%
Additionally, the report ranks Wyoming 38 out of 51 – including Washington, D.C. – for adult smoking.
Key lung cancer findings in the U.S.
Over the past five years, lung cancer survival has improved nationwide. The survival rate has improved from 22% to 26.6% in that period of time.
Here’s how the state of lung cancer currently looks throughout the U.S.:
Only 26.6% of cases of lung cancer are diagnosed at an early stage. About 63% of these early-stage patients survive over the course of five years, compared to an 8% survival rate for people who are diagnosed with late-stage cancer. About 44% of cases are caught during the late stage. Overall, early-diagnosis rates have improved 9% over the past five years.
The rate of surgery to treat lung cancer has improved by 4% over the past five years.
Lack of treatment
Lack of treatment rates have improved 2% over the past five years.
Screening and prevention
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force broadened its recommendation for lung cancer screening to include a wider age range, as well as people who formerly smoked. This increased the number of women and Black Americans considered at risk for lung cancer. Screening rates still remain low for those at high risk at only 4.5%.
To improve screening rates, the ALA advocates for members of Congress to pass HR 4286, the Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act. The bill aims to increase access to lung cancer screenings for every state while removing barriers to preventive care.
People of color diagnosed with lung cancer are less likely to be diagnosed early, receive surgical treatment and are more likely to receive no treatment compared to white Americans with lung cancer.