If screening for lung cancer starts to rise and early diagnosis of lung cancer continues to improve, perhaps three-quarters of the New Jersey residents diagnosed with the disease in 2020 won't succumb to it within five years, a report finds.

At just 25.9%, New Jersey's five-year lung cancer survival rate is among the best in the nation, according to American Lung Association's State of Lung Cancer report released Tuesday. New Jersey's rate represents a 15% improvement over the last five years, the report finds.

"New Jerseyans are living longer with lung cancer ... and it is really showing that our new diagnostic tools, as well as medications, are keeping people healthier," said Michael Seilback, the association's national assistant vice president for state public policy.

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According to the report, New Jersey posts the 14th-best rate (23.8%) in the country for early diagnosis of lung cancer, which can often be treated with surgery if caught at an early stage. That's an improvement of 37% over the last five years.

Black individuals are 28% less likely to be diagnosed early than their white counterparts, the report noted.

"When lung cancer is detected early, prognosis increases drastically," Seilback said.

But early diagnosis in New Jersey, as of now, is typically not the result of a true lung screening test, a CT scan that has been available since 2015. According to the report, only 3.2% of New Jersey individuals who are eligible (based on age and smoking history) have been screened. The national rate isn't much better, at 5.7%.

It's estimated that 6,100 New Jersey residents will be diagnosed in 2020 with lung cancer, the nation's leading cause of cancer deaths.

Seilback said improvements in screening numbers, along with new treatments on the market, provide hope that the survival rate will continue to tick upward.

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