Low lung cancer screening numbers, high numbers due to lack of treatment – Lake County Record-Bee

People walk and drive on the Panorama Bluffs trail on September 8, 2020 when the air quality index was high. (Photo: Alex Horvath/Bakersfield Californian)

California saw mixed results, which ranked it the worst state in the country for lung cancer treatment, according to a report by the American Lung Association released Tuesday.

“Lung cancer screening is key to early detection, and early detection saves lives. Unfortunately, not enough people here in California are getting this life-saving screening,” said Will Barrett, national senior director of advocacy at the American Lung Association. “We can all help reduce the burden of lung cancer in California.”

In its November report, titled “State of Lung Cancer,” ALA ranked California third nationally for the rate of new lung cancer cases, 19th nationally for survival rate, and 36th for early detection; All three statistics were in line with or slightly below the national average.

However, the condition fared poorly in early detection (46th) and treatment (51st). In terms of treatment, ALA researchers found that 1 percent of eligible Californians were regularly screened for lung cancer. Currently, 14.2 million Americans are eligible for screening.

And of those diagnosed with the disease, more than a quarter received no treatment.

“If you’re a candidate for lung cancer screening, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about it,” Barnett said. “If a loved one is eligible, please encourage them to seek screening.”

Cancer is projected to be the leading cause of death in California by 2030. Currently, cancer is second only to heart disease. In 2022, the state is projected to have 189,000 new cancer cases and nearly 61,000 deaths. Lung cancer is the most common form in the state at 40 percent.

While there is ample evidence that regular screening reduces the risk of death, the issues of cost and access are key. Also, California is a big state. Varying issues such as air quality, cultural and language barriers, differences in coverage and ease of access all affect different regions to varying degrees.

“The public can make decisions on a daily basis to reduce air pollution,” said Heather Heinks, outreach communications manager for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

“Pack your lunch instead of leaving the office, educate your kids on your commute, consider an electric vehicle so you don’t contribute to pollution, turn off your fireplace and switch to natural gas or a key pump ‘ Heinks said.

In their 2015 report, researchers at UC Davis’ Institute for Population Health Improvement found that Medi-Cal and uninsured patients were significantly less likely to be diagnosed at early stage and more likely to be Stage IV compared to these patients were diagnosed with private insurance. Medi-Cal has long paid too little for screenings.

“It’s easier than ever to get screened for lung cancer,” said David Tom Cooke, chief of UC Davis Health Division of General Thoracic Surgery, in a news release. “To save lives, eligible smokers and ex-smokers need to accept that they are at risk and get tested.”

The study also shows that people of color, particularly black Americans, have lower survival rates, are less likely to be diagnosed early, and are less likely to receive no treatment than white Americans. Low-income and rural Americans also tend to live worse.

“Cancer care has generally improved in recent years, but disparities in the quality of cancer care and survival rates according to health insurance sources are known to be significant public health concerns,” the researchers said.

In response to the growing demand for more equitable healthcare, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the California Cancer Care Equity Act, which supports enrolled plans and requires Medi-Cal to educate those with high-risk cancer about their rights and the best options for care, even if it does means referring them to a hospital outside of their network.

“Effective treatment of complex cancers depends on the accuracy of the initial diagnosis, timely intervention, choice of therapy, collaboration between multiple experts, and access to appropriate clinical trials or new therapies,” wrote Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, of author the bill.

Proponents say this will make it easier for Medi-Cal patients to receive appropriate treatment that they otherwise might not know is even possible given their health plan. The law will come into effect in January.

Meanwhile, Heinks pointed out the importance of regularly checking outdoor air pollution. The district tracks the air daily and alerts the public if quality declines, which it does from time to time.

“It’s a foreign object and shouldn’t be in your body,” Heinks said. “Keep an eye on air pollution so you don’t unnecessarily expose yourself and your family.”

“We are aware that we have air quality issues in the San Joaquin Valley, but we have tools to improve it,” she continued. “Year after year, AQ models show progress, but we’re not done yet.”

Find out if you qualify for lung cancer screening at SavedByTheScan.org.