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Disparities in Lung Cancer Treatment: Non-White Patients Face Treatment Delays

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When you have lung cancer, how fast you’re treated matters. A single-week delay in getting radiation therapy increases a person’s risk for death by 3.2% when they have stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer.

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Your racial background can affect how quickly you get treatment, according to new research by UVA Cancer Center. Researchers looked at more than 220,000 patients with non-small cell lung cancer across the U.S. and found disparities in lung cancer treatment.

White patients started life-saving radiation therapy an average of 60.9 days after diagnosis. But both Asian and Black patients waited longer. For Asian patients, it was 71.9 days, and for Black patients, it was 65.9 days.

The researchers are calling for a deeper look into these disparities in lung cancer treatment so the time to treatment becomes more equitable.

Why Do Non-White Patients Wait Longer for Treatment?

There could be many reasons for these disparities in lung cancer treatment, the researchers say. And they're likely tied to social determinants of health that make getting and affording healthcare more difficult for certain groups. For example, non-white patients are less likely to have insurance and face other socioeconomic obstacles. They’re also less likely to report they're satisfied with their healthcare providers.

“These findings shed light on the potential presence of and impact of structural racism on patients seeking cancer treatment,” the researchers write in a paper in the scientific journal Health Equity.

“Further investigation into the societal determinants that perpetuate disparity in time to radiation therapy, and potential interventions in the clinical setting to improve cultural and racial sensitivity among healthcare professionals, is recommended.”

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