HomeArkansas newsArkansas lags behind in lung cancer survival rates

Arkansas lags behind in lung cancer survival rates

Fayetteville, Arkansas – The 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report by the American Lung Association paints a concerning picture for Arkansas, placing it near the bottom in lung cancer survival rates among U.S. states. This report underscores the critical health challenges faced in the state and highlights the need for increased awareness and screening.

Arkansas ranks 36th out of the 42 states where lung cancer survival data was available, with a survival rate of 22.6%, which is significantly lower than the national rate of 26.6%. In comparison, Rhode Island leads with the highest survival rate at 33.3%, while Oklahoma falls at the lowest with 21.2%. It’s important to note that data was not available for eight states and the District of Columbia.

Despite these grim statistics, there is a silver lining. Over the past five years, Arkansas has seen a 25% improvement in its lung cancer survival rate. However, the state still has a long way to go, ranking 33rd out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in high-risk lung cancer screening, with only 3.7% of eligible individuals getting screened, compared to the national average of 5%.

The common perception that lung cancer primarily affects smokers is challenged by the experiences of individuals like Shelley Myran, a resident of Springdale, Arkansas. Diagnosed with ALK-positive lung cancer in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Myran’s case is particularly striking as she is a non-smoker with no known risk factors or family history of the disease. Her diagnosis was unexpected and frightening, highlighting the often-silent progression of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Myran’s story is a stark reminder of the unpredictability of lung cancer. She was diagnosed at an advanced stage, which is common for non-smokers, as they typically don’t exhibit clear symptoms early on. Her symptoms, which included back pain, shortness of breath, and a mild cough, led her to visit a pulmonologist, culminating in her diagnosis in September 2020.

Three years after her diagnosis, Myran continues to struggle with the effects of cancer. She relies on medication to manage her condition and uses oxygen machines to aid her breathing, indicating the extent of lung damage caused by the cancer. Despite these challenges, she emphasizes the importance of awareness, pointing out that lung cancer is a leading cause of death for both men and women.

Dr. Jason Bailey from Northwest Hospital adds to this narrative by stating that while smokers are at a higher risk for developing lung cancer, secondhand exposure to smoke, including from campfires or cooking fumes, can also contribute to the risk.

Myran’s experience and the statistics from Arkansas highlight the critical need for increased lung cancer awareness and screening, especially among those who might not consider themselves at risk. Early detection is key to improving survival rates and quality of life for those affected by this disease.

The “State of Lung Cancer” report serves as a call to action for Arkansas and other states lagging behind in lung cancer survival rates and screening. It’s a reminder that lung cancer can affect anyone, regardless of smoking status, and underscores the importance of regular health check-ups and attention to symptoms, no matter how minor they may seem.

Olivia Martinez

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