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Race, Hospital and Insurance Status Are Factors In How Lung Cancer Is Treated

Update Date: Nov 18, 2014 07:41 AM EST

African Americans, Hispanics, and those who receive care at a community hospital are all significantly less likely than other patients to receive treatment for early stage non-small cell lung cancer, suggests a new study. 

"We found significant disparities for treatment of a curable cancer based on race, insurance status, and whether or not treatment was at an academic or community hospital," said Dr. Matthew Koshy, a physician in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and lead author of the study, in the press release. "Reducing these disparities could lead to significant improvements in survival for many people with inoperable early stage lung cancer."

The study is first to examine the treatment received by patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer. Treatment during this early stage offers the best chance for long-term survival. 

According to the study, African Americans were 40 percent less likely, and Hispanics 60 percent less likely, to be treated with radiation-either conventional radiation or SBRT. 

The study also noted that patients were two-and-a-half times more likely to receive SBRT in academic hospitals than in community hospitals, and seven times more likely to receive SBRT at a high-volume medical center than at a low-volume center.

Koshy suggests that all patients with early stage inoperable lung cancer be evaluated by a radiation oncologist, and that more radiation oncologists trained in SBRT are needed. Better access to facilities that offer SBRT could help reduce the disparities the study uncovered, he said in the press release.

The study was published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

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