Minorities face longer wait times for lung cancer treatment

UVA Cancer Center researchers found a five- to 11-day difference in wait time for lung cancer treatment between white patients and minority patients.

Researchers reviewed data for more than 222,700 non-small-cell lung cancer patients across the country. They found white patients receive radiation initiation after a median of 60.9 days. However, for Black patients the wait was 65.9 days, and for Asian patients it was 71.9 days.

A single-week delay in treatment is associated with up to a 3.2 percent risk of death for patients with stage 1 and stage 2 non-small-cell lung cancer, according to the UVA press release published Oct. 20. The study was published Aug. 18 in Health Equity.

Researchers suggest four possible reasons for the delay in treatment:

  1. Non-white patients are more likely to be uninsured and face greater socioeconomic barriers.

  2. Non-white patients are more likely to be perceived by doctors as not following through with their treatment plan, perhaps because of the financial barriers.

  3. Minorities are more likely to report low satisfaction with their encounters with care providers.

  4. Many minorities begin their treatment in community hospitals or local facilities before being transferred to academic facilities that offer more complex care.

"This is not limited to a particular type of treatment facility," senior researcher Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, of Charlottesville, Va.-based UVA Cancer Center and the University of Virginia School of Medicine's Department of Public Health Sciences, said in the release. "Collaboration among providers and community stakeholders and organizations is much needed to increase accessibility and patient knowledge of cancer and to overcome existing disparities in timely care for lung cancer patients."

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