2YH: State of Lung Cancer in Alaska

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - With the start of a new year comes new resolutions. For some, that means getting rid of old habits, one of which might be smoking. With more than 103,000 smokers in Alaska, 56% tried to quit in 2018, but it doesn't stop there.

State of Lung Cancer in Alaska and why our state has one of the worst 5-year Lung Cancer survival rates in the nation.

According to the 2019 "State of Lung Cancer" report, nationally the survival rate is on a positive trend improving by 26%.

Here in Alaska, not so much. The report ranked Alaska near the bottom with the 5-year lung cancer survival rate at 17.6%. So why is that?

Marge Stoneking with the American Lung Association in Alaska said part of the reason is that most lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a later stage after the disease has spread making lung cancer screening key in early detection.

A lung cancer screening is a low dose CT scan and a low dose, of course, reduces the risk of the scan itself and I think what's unique about this particular screening is the audience that's approved and recommended for this screening is quite narrow and specific to the highest risk audience," said Stoneking.

That high-risk audience she's referring to is people 55 to 80 years old, who have smoked a 30 pack-year, meaning a pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years. They're the highest at risk, but not the only. As for e-cigarettes, the American Lung Association has a message for that too.

"This new year's we are encouraging people not to switch to e-cigarettes, but to quit completely because e-cigarettes are still a nicotine delivery device and still carry health risks to your lungs and your cardiovascular system," she said.

Stoneking said what's proven to be the most effective in quitting tobacco use is a combination of pharmaceutical support and counseling or social support and to make a quit plan.

"Don't wake up and say today is the day I'm gonna quit necessarily because you may not be successful that way, but talk to a quit coach and make a plan so that when you're tempted or when you start to slip, you have a plan in place to be able to recover and continue your quit attempt," said Stoneking.

There are now 20 lung cancer screening programs across the state in a dozen communities, many of which are in rural hubs. Stoneking added Alaska Medicaid does not cover lung cancer screening. Medicare does and private insurance does. However, the Medicaid patient population typically has higher smoking and lung cancer rates.

To see if you qualify for a lung cancer screening, click here.

Take the quiz and then talk to your doctor. For health topics and ideas, you can always email us at 2yh@ktuu.com.

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