MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Far too few people in Alabama who suffer from lung cancer are surviving, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 State of Lung Cancer report.

Alabama ranks second to last in the country for lung cancer survival with a survival rate of 21.3%, which is less than the national average of 26.6%.

According to ALA, increasing lung cancer screenings and early diagnosis is the key to addressing the burden of lung cancer across the state.

“Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer deaths here in Alabama and across the nation,” Senior Director of Advocacy for Alabama at ALA Ashley Lyerly said. “Our recent report makes it clear that we have more work to do to increase lung cancer screening and early detection initiatives, as well as address health disparities in our Black community.”

The report’s findings:

  • Alabama ranks 35 of 48 in the country for rate of new lung cancer cases at 60.5 per 100,000.
    • The national rate is 54.6 per 100,000.
  • Alabama ranks 41 of 42 in the national for survival at 21.3%.
    • The national rate of people alive five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer is 26.6%.
  • Alabama ranks 36 of 47 in the country for early diagnosis at 25.1%.
    • On the national scale, only 26.6% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage.
  • Alabama ranks 29 of 51 in the country for lung cancer screening at 4.4%.
    • Annual low-dose CT scans can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20% for those who are at high risk.
    • Nationally, only 4.5% at high risk were screened
  • Alabama ranks 40 of 47 in the country for 16.4%.
    • Nationally, 20.8% underwent surgery.
    • Lung cancer can be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage.
  • Alabama ranks 37 of 47 in the country for lack of treatment at 22.2%
    • The national rate for lack of treatment is 20.6%.
  • Alabama ranks 42 of 51 in the country for smoking at 17.2%
    • The national rate of smokers is 13.5% of adults.

The report also found health disparities such as Black Alabamians being the least likely to receive surgery as the first course of treatment.

The lung cancer survival rate is improving nationally.

“Thankfully, the national lung cancer survival rate has improved because of increased awareness, improved access to healthcare and cutting-edge research into new treatments for the disease,” Lyerly said. “We need to keep up the momentum to save more lives.”

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared November lung cancer awareness month in the state. The American Cancer Society’s 48th annual Great American Smokeout is Thursday, and it’s a day for people who use tobacco to create a plan to quit.

In Alabama, 9,000 adults die annually from smoking, and 18.6% of high school students use tobacco products with middle school students also using tobacco.

“The Great American Smokeout is a clear wake up call for lawmakers to say it’s time for Alabama to stand up to Big Tobacco,” American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Alabama Govrenment Relations Director Jane Adams said. “For too long, Alabama has allowed the tobacco industry to addict people to deadly, cancer-causing products. It’s time to say, ‘enough is enough.’ Our residents deserve better.”

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