Lung cancer continues to be a major public health threat. About 150,000 Americans are hospitalized with the disease each year, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
"What seems to be happening is that that there is a reduction in incidence, but the number of hospitalizations is holding fairly steady," said Anne Elixhauser, a senior research scientist at the AHRQ. "Patients may be living longer and may be admitted to the hospital more often, or they are getting more aggressive treatment that requires admission to the hospital."
The average hospital stay cost for lung cancer in 2006 cost $14,200, and the death rate was 13 percent, five times higher than the death rate for all hospitalized people.
However, a "blame the victim" mentality is helping to stymie efforts toward early detection and better treatment, the experts said.
"We need earlier disease detection," she said. "We need to understand at a molecular or genetic level what triggers lung cancer in people so it can be detected earlier. We need more treatment options for the earlier stages of the disease, when we have a chance for better outcomes."
Today, 70 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, Ambrose said, "which is why the survival rate has remained low for decades. Just as has happened in breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer, a robust research pipeline can lead to a significant increase in survival."
But the situation is bleak: One survey of oncologists found nearly two-thirds saying they did not have adequate treatment options for people with advanced lun
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