But not all cancers are alike. For example, the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual report, “Cancer Facts and Figures 2017,” shows that five-year survival rates in prostate cancer and female breast cancer, two of the most commonly diagnosed cancer types, have risen to 99% and 91%, respectively, between 2006 to 2012. Five-year survival rates were just 75% for female breast cancer and 68% for prostate cancer between 1975 and 1977. Improvements in medicines to treat these diseases, along with patient and physician education, have gone a long way.
At the other end of the spectrum is the deadliest cancer of them all in terms of sheer numbers: lung cancer. Below are 10 frightening statistics that describe why lung cancer is possibly the most feared of all cancer types.
- Approximately 222,500 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, according to the ACS. This includes almost 117,000 men and more than 105,000 women. It’s the second-most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. behind only female breast cancer and the most commonly diagnosed cancer type in the world.
- The ACS estimates that 155,870 people will die from lung cancer in 2017, which is more than three times higher than the next-deadliest cancer type, colon cancer, which is expected to claim 50,260 lives this year. It’s also the deadliest cancer, as a whole, across the globe.
- Just 19% of those diagnosed with lung or bronchus cancer will live five or more years as of 2006-2012. That’s just a 7 percentage-point improvement over more than three decades. More than half of those diagnosed with lung cancer pass away within a year.
- The average age at diagnoses is 70. Just 2% of cases involve people younger than 45, while two out of three people are diagnosed at age 65 or older.
- According to the ACS, lung cancer found in a localized state (i.e., stages 1 or 2) led to a five-year survival rate of 55% between 2006 and 2012. By comparison regional (stage 3) and metastatic (stage 4) lung cancer had five-year survival rates of just 28% and 4% over the same period.
- Approximately 415,000 Americans are alive today who have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives.
- Smoking is a contributing factor to between 80% and 90% of lung-cancer cases. Men and women who smoke are a respective 23 and 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers.
- Nonsmokers aren’t out of the woods. Those who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20% to 30% greater chance of developing lung cancer.
- According to a study conducted by Milliman, lung cancer is also extremely costly. Using data between 2011 and 2014, it found the cumulative health expense for lung cancer after just five months post-diagnosis was more than $99,000. By month 23, the aggregate cost crosses $200,000. By comparison, colorectal cancer and breast cancer cost a respective $118,372 and $71,960 in its analysis at month 23. This is not cheap by any means, but nowhere near the cost of treating lung cancer.
- The National Institutes of Health estimates that lung cancer directly cost $13.4 billion in 2015, which doesn’t include $36.1 billion in lost worker productivity tied to hospitalization and early death.
By Sean Williams