PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- More Americans are surviving lung cancer, according to a new report released Tuesday. It said Pennsylvania and New Jersey get good grades for detection and treatments but disparities still exist for minorities and radon levels are especially concerning in Pennsylvania.
"This is the new face of lung cancer, young nonsmokers," Donna Thompson said.
Thompson, who lives in Havertown, has had lung cancer twice. She was first diagnosed when she was 45.
"It's scary and it is life-changing," she said.
Doctors think environmental exposures to things like radon could be part of the reason for the growing number of young nonsmokers with lung cancer.
"Radon in particular is a naturally occurring colorless orderless tasteless gas found in high rates across Pennsylvania," Aimee VanCleave said.
VanCleave, with the American Lung Association, said radon exposure remains high across Pennsylvania, according to the new 2023 "State of Lung Cancer" report.
Stahl: "Why are radon levels so high in Pennsylvania?"
VanCleave: "It honestly just has to do with the geology."
Overall, the new report said there's been a 22% increase in lung cancer survival rates over the past five years mainly from improved detection and treatments.
The state-by-state analysis shows Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are average or above for survival rates, screenings, and treatments but in the region and nationwide minorities have worse outcomes.
"We're still seeing some health disparities, particularly with people of color," VanCleave said.
Thompson said her cancer was found by accident with a chest X-ray she had because of chest pain probably related to stress.
"I've had many moments of saying if I hadn't done that, my God," Thompson said.
Now, she's working with the lung association to raise awareness and support other patients.
"The whole goal is to spread love so no one fights alone and people know there's a community that supports them," Thompson said.
With lung cancer remaining the leading cancer killer, Thompson is encouraging people to get the recommended scans and see a doctor if you have any symptoms like a cough.
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