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Maine has one of the highest rates of new cases of lung cancer, report finds

The State of Lung Cancer report from the American Lung Association does say Maine’s 5-year survival rate is on the rise.
Human lungs over male figure
Human lungs over male figure(Associated Press)
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 4:07 PM EST
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - The American Lung Association released its annual State of Lung Cancer report Tuesday morning, and it shows Maine has some work to do.

The report finds Maine has one of the highest rates of new cases of lung cancer in the country. In fact, only five states have higher rates. Over the last five years, the rate of new cases has not changed significantly.

However, the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer patients in Maine has risen by 13% in the last five years and is now on par with the national average. Twenty-three percent of Mainers are alive five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The Lung Association says about every 2 1/2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with lung cancer, and every day, lung cancer kills about 382 people. While the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths among both women and men, over the past five years, the survival rate has increased by 14% nationally to 23.7%

Maine also gets high marks for screening. The report finds that 12% of people considered to be high risk for lung cancer get screened. That is the fourth-best rate in the country, and double the national rate.

The American Lung Association says screening for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans among those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20% by detecting tumors at early stages.

Nationally, screening rates have increased every year since it was first recommended. However, the national rate did not change from 2019 to 2020, likely due to COVID-19 lockdowns limiting access to health care resources and reluctance by many people to enter medical facilities during the pandemic.

Most patients in Maine who have lung cancer do get treatment. The report says only 17% do not get treatment, one of the lowest rates in the country. The American Lung Association says some patients do refuse treatment, but issues such as fatalism and stigma can prevent eligible patients from accessing treatment that may save or extend their lives

The report applauds Maine’s fee-for-service Medicaid program that covers screening services.

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