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'State of Lung Cancer' report: Pa. struggling with smokers and radon issues

In Pennsylvania, it's estimated that 11,170 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer death among men and women across the country, and it's a serious issue for Pennsylvanians. 

According to the new "State of Lung Cancer" report released today by the American Lung Association, it's estimated that 11,170 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021 -- and 6,140 will die from the disease. 

Yet, Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy, says awareness about lung cancer remains low, and the lifesaving potential of lung cancer screening remains underutilized.

"In the past year in 2020, a little less than 6% of those at high risk were screened for lung cancer nationwide," Pisciottano says. "We want to really make sure that we increase those numbers of those who are at high risk, especially since...that lung cancer screening does give us hope and represents an opportunity to save lives."

While Pennsylvania is one of the top 13 states for survival rate of those who get lung cancer, several issues still exist statewide.

“We are still up there for being the worst in smoking...so we are 32nd in the nation for worst smoking," Pisciottano says. "And we're also towards the bottom in radon...we're 39th in the nation."

Radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer, is present in many homes, schools and businesses across Pennsylvania – and Pisciottano says residents need to be proactive to keep themselves safe.

“We actually do have higher average of radon levels than others in Pennsylvania...but since any home can be at risk for elevated levels, really the only way to know is to do a radon test and get your house tested for radon.”

While many of these statistics are grim, there is hope in the form of lung cancer screenings which were recently expanded for more ages in March 2021. 

Pisciottano says for many minority communities, the screenings are, "so important, you know, that low dose CT scan...that's the way to detect lung cancer early." 

Ultimately, the "State of Lung Cancer" report, she says, emphasizes the need for resources and action to decrease the toll of lung cancer across the country.