Oncology Central

Study reveals lung cancer patients experience treatment delays and miss key diagnostic tests

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A new study by researchers from the University of Memphis (TN, USA) has discovered that lung cancer sufferers undergoing surgery may wait too long to receive treatment and many patients skip important diagnostic tests that are required to determine the most effective treatment strategies.

The research team, led by Nicolas Faris and Raymond Osarogiagbon (both University of Memphis), reviewed hospital records for suspected lung cancer patients who underwent surgery between January 2009 and June 2013 at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. For these patients, the researchers analyzed how long it took for care to commence and how appropriate treatment was determined. Their findings have been recently published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

“It takes too long for patients who have suspected lung cancer to get final treatment, and too many patients skip vital steps needed to decide the best possible treatment,” commented Osarogiagbon. “This delay in treatment can cause the cancer to advance and reduce the odds of survival for the patient.”

Of the 614 patients included in the analysis, 27% had no preoperative diagnostic procedure, 22% did not have an imaging scan to stage the cancer and 88% did not have an invasive staging test. Furthermore, only 10% had the recommended combination of three staging tests (CT scan, PET/CT scan, and an invasive test) before surgery. The results demonstrated that it took between 6 weeks to over 6 months for many patients to undergo surgery after possible lung cancer was detected by x-ray.

“Lung cancer care is complicated, and all key specialists must be actively engaged early on with each patient to determine the best sequence of tests and treatment for each individual,” continued Osarogiagbon. “Programs that provide treatment for lung cancer must also measure their performance actively and carefully in order to improve the quality of care and improve patients’ chances of survival.”

“Patients should feel comfortable taking an active role in their treatment process and ask a lot of questions to find out what treatment is right for them, why that option is the best, and what steps they can take to be better prepared for treatment,” added Faris.

This study is part of an ongoing prospective process-of-care analysis to examine factors associated with deviation from optimal care delivery for both surgical and nonsurgical patients.

In the same issue of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Farhood Farjah from the University of Washington in Seattle (WA, USA), authored a commentary noting the significant gaps in lung cancer care quality. “The authors plan to bridge this gap with a multidisciplinary team of thoracic oncology experts and system engineers,” Farjah explained.

“Faris and colleagues intend to evaluate all patients with suspected or confirmed non-small cell lung cancer in the future – a point that deserves emphasis,” commented Farjah. “They intend to pursue a disease-based rather than a treatment-based approach to quality improvement. This change means that more patients can potentially reap the benefits of quality improvement.”

Source: Elsevier press release

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