Olympus Stresses Importance of Lung Cancer Screening, Partners with American Lung Association During Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer cure rates are highest when detected early but screening rates for high-risk individuals
remains extremely low

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., (November 28, 2023) – Lung cancer survival rates have increased over the last five years, and the survival rates among communities of color increased at a faster pace, according to the recently published State of Lung Cancer 2023 Report from the American Lung Association.1

During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Olympus Corp. of the Americas and the American Lung Association partnered to raise awareness around the importance of early detection and provide a better understanding of eligibility around lung cancer screening guidelines as lung cancer screening rates among high-risk patients remains below 5%.1

The Lung Association reports:

  • About 238,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year.1
  • The rate of new lung cancer cases decreased 8% over the last five years.1
  • The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis has risen to 26.6%, which represents a 22% increase over the same period.1
  • The survival rate among communities of color also increased at a faster rate, meaning it’s no longer significantly lower compared to white patients.1
  • Black, Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander individuals and Indigenous people still are less likely to be diagnosed early and more likely to receive no treatment.1

Lung cancer remains the second most common cancer in both men and women and the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.2

Dr. Deborah Stahlnecker serves as medical director for St. Luke’s Univ. Health Network Interventional Pulmonary Program, Chief of Critical Care Intensive Care Unit for St. Luke’s Hospital Anderson Campus and clinical assistant professor/faculty at Temple University School of Medicine, and Deborah Brown serves as Chief Mission Officer with the Lung Association. They spoke recently about the importance of screening during a Lung Cancer Awareness Month panel discussion in conjunction with Olympus and the Lung Association.

Early detection remains key as the 5-year relative survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer is about 65% when caught at a localized stage. That figure drops to about 37% once the cancer spreads outside the lungs to areas such as the lymph nodes and to single digits when it spreads to distant parts of the body.3

“We need to find the problem before it becomes an even bigger problem,” Dr. Stahlnecker said.

She offered the example of a 77-year-old patient who underwent a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan after smoking 1½ packs a day for 50 years. The scan revealed a pulmonary nodule and a subsequent biopsy revealed cancer cells. The cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes, so the patient was diagnosed with Stage 1A lung cancer and underwent a successful lobectomy.

“That was a successful surgical cure. This is how every lung cancer story should go,” Dr. said Stahlnecker, a paid consultant for Olympus. “Unfortunately, this is not the majority of what we’re seeing.”

Lung cancer, like many cancers, is silent before it’s diagnosed and becomes apparent after it’s progressed, so screening is key,” she said.

There has been an increased emphasis on lung cancer screenings in recent years beginning in 2021 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) changed its guidelines to include more people in the high-risk category by lowering the recommended age to begin screenings and lowering a smoker’s pack years.

Deborah Brown, with the Lung Association, said about 14.5 million people are eligible for lung cancer screenings but nationally only 4.5% of those considered high risk for the disease were screened in 2022 with an LDCT scan.1

As part of its “Saved By the Scan” campaign, the Lung Association offers a quiz on lung cancer screening and eligibility. Brown said the Lung Association works to remove barriers to screenings such as addressing misperceptions that LDCT scans are as confining as an MRI or take hours to complete. The amount of radiation associated with an LDCT scan is about the same as what an average American gets in six months of naturally occurring background radiation.4

The Lung Association also works to promote smoking cessation programs given that smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, Brown said.

“It often takes people several attempts to stop smoking, so there is no doubt that quitting can be very hard,” she said. “But getting a scan is very easy. It’s so important to make sure everyone is aware of screening opportunities and how quick and easy a potentially life-saving scan can be.”

Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) updated its screening guidelines to recommend that people get screened even if they stopped smoking for more than 15 years, which is the USPSTF guideline. The ACS estimates another 5 million more people would qualify for regular lung cancer screenings under such a recommendation.5

“The statistics around lung cancer are staggering from the number of annual diagnoses to the shockingly low percentage of eligible patients who undergo annual screenings,” said Swarna Alcorn, Business Unit Vice President, Respiratory, Olympus America, Inc. “Olympus remains committed to providing continued education around awareness and the importance of early detection and advocating for equal access to care for all.”

Advancements in detection and diagnosis, such as endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA), a procedure pioneered by Olympus, have helped lay the groundwork for targeted cancer treatment such as immunotherapy. The technology helps pulmonologists locate nodules and lymph nodes and collect the tissue samples needed to diagnose and stage their disease, and analysis which informs the personalized, targeted cancer therapy provided by immunotherapy. Potential complications that may be associated with EUS include, but are not limited to sore throat, infection, bleeding, perforation, and/or tumor seeding (when EUS-fine needle aspiration or biopsy is performed).

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At Olympus, we are committed to our purpose of making people’s lives healthier, safer and more fulfilling. As a global medical technology company, we partner with healthcare professionals striving to provide best-in-class solutions and services for early detection, diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment, aiming to improve patient outcomes by elevating the standard of care in targeted disease states. For more information, visit medical.olympusamerica.com.

1 The American Lung Association, “State of Lung Cancer 2023 Report”

2 American Cancer Society, “Key Statistics for Lung Cancer.” Rev. January 2023

3 American Cancer Society, “Lung Cancer Survival Rates.” Rev. March 2023

4 The American Lung Association, “What to Expect From a Lung Cancer Screening.”

5 Wolf, Andrew M. D., et al, “Screening for lung cancer: 2023 guideline update from the American Cancer Society,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, pub. Nov. 1, 2023