Skip to main content.

Lung Cancer Patients Are Living Longer. Find Out Why

Posted December 12, 2022 by Chelsea Kennedy-Snodgrass, D.O.

Woman in a striped shirt getting checked by a nurse

Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both males and females in the United States, and according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), is the leading cause of cancer deaths, making up almost 25% of cases.

While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, nonsmokers can be diagnosed with cancer as well. Exposure to radon, asbestos, and secondhand smoke are some of the other risk factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer.

The good news is that these statistics are changing and the outlook for patients diagnosed with lung cancer is better than ever. People are living longer with non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common form and makes up nearly 85% of cases.

In fact, the overall rate of people dying from lung cancer has decreased 56% from 1990 to 2019 in males, and 32% from 2002 to 2019 in females, according to the ACS. The number of deaths from lung cancer continues to decline each year due to updated screening guidelines, detection of lung cancer at earlier stages, and advancements in treatment.

Additionally, the number of new lung cancer cases is decreasing in part because people are quitting smoking.

Updated screening guidelines for earlier detection

Early detection is critical for improved patient outcomes. The five-year survival rate for advanced lung cancer is 8% versus 64% for early stage lung cancer, according to the ACS.

Thanks to recently expanded screening guidelines, lung cancer is being caught earlier before the cancer has a chance to grow and spread, providing more options for treatment. The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends a low-dose chest CT scan annually for anyone between the ages of 50 and 80 years old who have smoked at least 20 pack years, and who currently smoke or who have quit in the past 15 years. A pack year is the equivalent of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for one year. Your pack years can be calculated using the following formula:

Average number of packs smoked per day x number of years smoked = Pack years

A low-dose chest CT scan, which takes less than 10 seconds and doesn’t require any drugs or needles, produces a 3D image of the lungs. It is one of the most effective ways to detect early-stage lung cancer for high-risk patients.

Advances in lung cancer treatment

Innovations in surgical procedures and advances in chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs are improving patient outcomes.

As opposed to a traditional thoracotomy, more and more patients are having video-assisted thoracic surgery to treat early-stage lung cancers. This procedure requires smaller incisions, so patients typically experience shorter recovery times and fewer complications.

Robotic-assisted thoracic surgery is another minimally invasive option that uses instruments that have a greater range of motion and are more precise which improves results, shortens recovery time and reduces pain for lung cancer patients.

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has recently approved several new targeted and immunotherapy drugs for advanced lung cancer that have led to increased survival rates.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs designed to precisely identify and attack certain cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. The drugs work by zeroing in on some of the proteins that make cancer cells different from normal cells and can block messages that make cancer cells grow.

Immunotherapy uses drugs to help boost a person’s own immune system so it works harder to recognize and attack cancer cells to stop or slow cancer growth.

Fewer smokers

Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, but the current rate of adults who smoke in this country continues to decline. Smoking has decreased from 20.9% in 2005 to 12.5% in 2020, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A main reason for the decline is that people are more aware today about the dangers of smoking. For decades, educational campaigns run by the government and national organizations have promoted the health hazards of tobacco use. In addition, many smoking cessation programs are available today through government agencies and health insurers, not to mention the many restrictions on smoking in public places.

What’s more, when there are fewer people smoking, there’s less exposure to secondhand smoke, which is also a risk factor for lung cancer.

If you’re at high risk for lung cancer, screening is vital to catching it early. Contact Summa Health today to schedule your low-dose CT lung screening at 330.319.6900.

About the Author

Chelsea Kennedy-Snodgrass, D.O.

Vitality eNews Sign Up

Receive the Summa Health eNewsletter for the latest health tips, advice and updates.

Related Blogs

View all Flourish Blogs

Lung Cancer Screening and the Advancements in Lung Cancer Detection and Treatment [Podcast]

Dr. Aziken, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Summa Health, reviews the importance of lung cancer screenings, who is at risk of developing lung cancer, some of advancements in the treatment of lung cancer and debunks common myths.

Incorporate These 5 Daily Habits to Improve Your Lung Health

Prioritizing your lung health is very important, especially if you’re suffering from chronic lung conditions, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), lung cancer or asthma.

Your lungs allow you to take in oxygen from the air you breathe and are the key to carrying it to all your organ systems to keep them running efficiently, while clearing your body of carbon dioxide.

The body has a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs, and help keep dirt…

'Tis the season to avoid asthma triggers

You know winter has arrived when the days get shorter, snow flurries fill the air and you can see your breath when you speak. When temperatures hover around freezing for months on end, it can make for a long and dreary season for many.

But for people with asthma, it can be even more frightful when the frigid winter weather causes their symptoms to worsen. Exposure to cold, dry air is a common asthma trigger and can quickly cause severe symptoms.

When cold, dry air enters the…

All About COPD [Podcast]

Healthy VitalsListen to this episode of the Healthy Vitals Podcast featuring Paul Bailey, a registered respiratory therapist, and Sarah Serb, an acute nurse practitioner.

Living with COPD? What you need to know

Smoking cigarettes is a dangerous habit that damages nearly every organ in the body, leading to disease and long-term disability.

People who smoke are at a higher risk for lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, eye diseases, and the list goes on. Another major health effect caused from smoking is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.

COPD is a lung disease that affects the way air flows in and out of your lungs, making it difficult to breathe.…

Respiratory Therapists: Who they are and what they treat

Are you suffering from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or another lung problem? A respiratory therapist may be able to help.

One out of six Americans will suffer from a serious pulmonary (lung) disease at some time in their lives. Of those afflicted, however, many patients don’t realize a respiratory therapist can help them overcome breathing problems and breathe easier — all the while increasing their quality of life.

As vital members of the healthcare team,…

Are you high-risk? Lung health and lower respiratory disease

Chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease in Ohio. Chronic lower respiratory disease is a broad term that includes a variety of diseases that affect the lungs, like: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema (a type of COPD), chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma.

Roughly one in six Americans will suffer from some pulmonary disease in their lifetime. Most of those affected usually associate…

What is a Lung Nodule?

Lung nodules are abnormal clusters of tissue that appear as “spots” on chest X-rays and CT scans. All lung cancers starts as a nodule; however, these spots are very common and almost 95 percent of them are not cancerous.

Lung cancer is a very tragic disease. It has the lowest 5-year survival rate of all cancers and leads to more deaths that the next 3 deadliest cancers (colorectal, pancreatic and breast) combined.
Most lung cancers are not diagnosed and treated at an early stage, contributing to the low survival rate. However, early detection, by low-dose CT screening, can increase that rate by up to 20 percent in high-risk patients.


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.