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Measure to improve early lung cancer screening heads to full House, Senate

Screening for lung cancer can catch tumors but it can also produce false positives. Patients need to decide whether it's right for them, but doctors often don't know how to advise them.
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State lawmakers will soon consider taking further steps to fight lung cancer in the state.

Senate Bill 3367 advanced last week out of conference committee and will be heard in the House and Senate on Tuesday.

The measure would create a lung cancer screening task force to research what it would take to increase early screenings in the state.

Pedro Haro, executive director for the American Lung Association in Hawaiʻi, says the state is the worst in the country when diagnosing lung cancer in the early stages, which is when it is most treatable.

"A lot of people don’t realize that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in Hawaiʻi for both men and women. More so than colorectal, prostate and breast cancer combined. More people die of lung cancer," Haro said.

"Particularly Native Hawaiians have a huge disparity. So much so that it’s being looked at at a national level," he said.

Haro says about half of those diagnosed in the state with lung cancer survive, primarily because they are diagnosed and treated in later, more severe stages.

People who have never smoked can also get lung cancer, he added.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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