Colorado ranks high for lung cancer survival, but low for lung cancer screening

Data pix.

DENVER -- A new report shows Colorado has one of the best lung cancer survival rates in the country, but it ranks as one of the worst for screening.

The American Lung Association released the annual State of Lung Cancer report.  It shows in Colorado the lung cancer survival rate is 25.3 percent, which his fifth best in the country, but still very low compared to other cancers.

Link: Colorado in "State of Lung Cancer" report

One reason the disease is so deadly is because most cases are diagnosed at a later stage, after the disease has spread.  “Usually you don’t have symptoms until it’s at a later stage,” said Katharine George with the American Lung Association in Colorado.

That was the situation for Peggy Dennis.  Three years ago the Denver woman, who was never a smoker,  had chest pain and couldn’t catch her breath, so she went to urgent care.  After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  “The thing with stage 4 is that there isn’t a cure yet,” Dennis said.

Lung cancer screening is key to early detection, when the disease is most curable.  A low dose CT scan has been available since 2015, but only 2.5 percent of those eligible in Colorado have been screened, and that’s one of the lowest rates in the country.  “I think its lack of awareness, or fear that may keep people from getting scanned,” George said.

Heavy smokers or other high risk patients can take a quiz on lung.org and ask their doctors if they should be scanned.

That’s something Dennis is promoting.  “If you have risks for lung cancer, absolutely don’t be afraid to get it checked,” she said.

She's had multiple rounds of treatment and her prognosis is uncertain, but she is still smiling and still fighting.

“There’s so much hope,” she said.

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