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Better Lung Cancer Awareness Will Save More Lives



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We could not let November slip away without focusing on a couple of important ways to help ensure more of us are around to enjoy life, hug our kids, care for our loved ones, and contribute to our careers and our communities for many more Thanksgivings and holiday seasons to come.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and according to the 4th annual “State of Lung Cancer” report that was just released, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths for both women and men.

Two areas where prevention will continue playing a key role in saving lives relate to early diagnosis among former and current smokers and, perhaps surprisingly, in the area of radon awareness and mitigation. More on that in a moment — but first, some good news.

The 2021 “State of Lung Cancer” report showed Connecticut with top 5 rankings for 5-year survival, early diagnosis, and surgical treatment rate.

The report found that Connecticut ranked first in the nation for survival at 28.8% — the national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%; and second in the nation for early diagnosis at 29.1% — nationally, only 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.

But we fell to 17th in the nation for lung cancer screening at 7.6% — nationally, only 5.7% of those at high risk were screened even though lung cancer screening with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%.

To help save more lives, this past March, the US Preventive Services Task Force expanded its recommendation for screening to include a larger age range and more current or former smokers. This dramatically increased the number of women and Black Americans who are eligible for lung cancer screening.

This is good news because while the national lung cancer survival rate increased, it remains at only 20% for communities of color, and 18% for Black Americans. Early screening is especially critical for Connecticut’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are 32% less likely than whites to be diagnosed early.

If you are between 50-80 years old, a current smoker or quit within the last 15 years, and have a smoking history of 20 or more pack years or one pack a day for 20 years; two packs a day for 10 years, etc, find out if you are eligible for lung cancer screening at SavedByTheScan.org and then talk to your doctor about getting screened.

Regarding radon, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon causes more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the country each year — only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. And as either an airborne particulate or in well water, it is estimated that one in three Connecticut homes are affected with 26% of radon test results at or above the action level recommended by EPA.

For more information on radon issues locally, its dangers, information on how to get your home tested — and if necessary, vendors to help with radon mitigation, start with the Newtown Health District at the Municipal Center in Fairfield Hills, or call 203-270-4291.

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