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New Report Shows More People Surviving Lung Cancer Despite It Remaining Leading Cancer Killer

HERSHEY, Pa. (CBS) -- More people are surviving lung cancer, but disparities persist for communities of color, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. Surviving cancer often depends on finding it early and that doesn't usually happen with lung cancer because there aren't always symptoms.

Luckily though, treatments are getting better.

Forty-five-year-old Summer Farmen who lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania is a lung cancer survivor.

"I am absolutely thrilled," Summer Farmen said. "It is great, I want to shout it from the rooftops."

On a Zoom update with her doctor from Penn Medicine, Dr. Charu Aggarwal, there was a lot to celebrate.

"She has complete remission which is amazing," Dr. Aggarwal said.

It's a big accomplishment because lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer. Most cases are linked to smoking, but not all and there's a troubling new trend.

"We are seeing so many more young, never smokers, newly diagnosed with lung cancer," Dr. Aggarwal said.

That was Farmen, a young, healthy, mother of three. Taking care of her family which includes a disabled son.

In June 2020, she thought a persistent cough might have been COVID-19.

"I certainly was nothing thinking lung cancer," Farmen said.

The Lung Association's new report says lung cancer survival rates have improved, but not so much for Black Americans who get screened less and have fewer treatments. The state-by-state report card shows the Pennsylvania, Tri-State region is doing better but needs to improve high-risk screenings.

Low-dose CT scans for that group can reduce death rates.

"I feel full of gratitude," Farmen said.

Farmen had a genetic type of advanced lung cancer that can be successfully treated with targeted medication instead of chemotherapy.

"It just gives me so much joy that we're able to provide Summer the quality of life that she needs," Dr. Aggarwal said.

Behind smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It's a colorless and odorless gas that can seep into homes and buildings. Many areas in this region have high levels and the only way to know is to do a test.

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