Cancer screening rate is ‘far too low’ in Nevada, says American Lung Association report

By: - November 17, 2023 6:00 am

The smoking rate in Nevada is 15.5%, not significantly higher than the national rate of 13.5%. (Photo: Hugh Jackson/Nevada Current)

Only 1.4% of people who are at high risk of lung cancer in Nevada get a screening for the disease, which is “far too low” according to the 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report by the American Lung Association in Nevada released earlier this week. The state ranked 47th nationally for lung cancer screenings. 

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for Nevadans, but lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. High-risk individuals are those who are current smokers or smoked in the last 15 years, are between the ages of 50-80 years old, and have one pack per day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years, according to standards set by the United States Preventive Services Task Force​.

“Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths here in Nevada and across the nation, and our recent report makes it clear that we have more work to do to focus on advancing treatment and surgical intervention,” said JoAnna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Nevada, in a statement.

Lung cancer has one of the lowest five-year survival rates because it tends to be diagnosed at later stages when it is less likely to be cured, but earlier diagnoses through screenings increase the survival rate, according to the report. 

But standard Medicaid programs are not required to cover lung cancer screenings despite Medicaid beneficiaries being disproportionately affected by lung cancer. 

The American Lung Association encourages all Medicaid state plans to “remove any financial or administrative barriers that limit access to this lifesaving service,” but only Tennessee offers no-fee screenings for lung cancer, according to the report. 

Nevada Medicaid offers screenings, but the state does charge for them.

Tobacco use, secondhand smoke, radon exposure, and year-round particle pollution can cause lung cancer, and preventing exposure to these factors can help cut rates, according to the report. 

The state ranked 12th for radon testing, which helps measure radon gas concentrations in buildings, according to the report. Radon gas is a significant contributor to lung cancer. 

The smoking rate in Nevada is 15.5%, not significantly higher than the national rate 13.5%, according to the report. Utah had the lowest rate, at 7.2%, while West Virginia had the highest, at 22%.

The Nevada Radon Education Program at the University of Nevada, Reno offers low-cost, short-term (2-4 days) and long-term (3-12 months) radon test kits. The test kits are free from January to February and can be picked up at a local extension office.

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism.