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Attitudes may deter African Americans from receiving surgery for non-small cell lung cancer

June 05, 2004

NEW ORLEANS--Do African Americans with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have a lower overall survival rate than Caucasians with the disease because they have less access to adequate medical care, or because they are less likely to agree to lung surgery when offered?

A study by investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute offers evidence that both factors may play a role. The data will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Saturday, June 5, 2 p.m., R02 2nd Floor - Escalators 1 & 2).

Researchers led by Dana-Farber's Christopher Lathan, MD, used Medicare data to compare treatment and survival rates among some 24,000 African American and Caucasian patients with NSCLC that had not spread beyond the lungs. They found that procedures to determine the stage - or degree of advancement - of the cancer were performed less frequently in African Americans than in Caucasians, and that African Americans who did receive such staging were still less likely to have a lung operation for the disease. Among patients who underwent surgery to treat the disease, survival rates for African Americans and Caucasians were equivalent.

The researchers further found that African Americans whose tumors were staged were less likely than Caucasians to be recommended for surgery, but twice as likely to decline surgery when it was recommended.

"Our results suggest that there are African Americans patients who could benefit from surgery for NSCLC but aren't receiving it," Lathan says. "The barriers to surgery may include African American patients' being less likely to be offered surgery in borderline cases, or being less accepting of recommendations for surgery." He and his colleagues hope to sort out these possibilities in future research.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ( is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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