Disparities Persist for Very Elderly Lung Cancer Patients

More than 60% of very elderly patients with stage 3 lung cancer did not receive treatment.

A new analysis published by CANCER suggests that elderly patients with advanced lung cancer who are African American or live in lower-income areas are less likely to receive treatment. These factors can severely impact treatment outcomes and patient survival.

The study authors found that patients aged 80 to 90 years may not receive standard lung cancer treatment due to age and fragility concerns.

To determine which treatments very elderly patients receive and their subsequent outcomes, the authors analyzed data from 12,641 patients included in the National Cancer Data Base with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer who received therapy between 2004 and 2013.

The authors discovered that 62.7% of patients did not receive lung cancer treatment.

Significant racial disparities were also found among these patients, with black race increasing the risk of no treatment by 23%.

Additionally, patients with lower education levels were at a 20% higher risk of not receiving cancer treatment, according to the study.

The authors found that patients who received care at an academic center were 20% more likely to be treated for lung cancer.

The study also examined the outcomes of patients who did and did not receive cancer treatment.

Patients who were untreated and those who underwent radiation monotherapy were more likely to die during the follow-up period compared with patients who received both chemotherapy and radiation, which is the current standard for stage 3 lung cancer, according to the study.

These findings highlight significant gaps in care that may face elderly patients with lung cancer.

"Our study is the largest to look at patients 80 years and older with stage III lung cancer. We highlight risks for patients not receiving standard therapy and show that patients who receive standard care live longer," said researcher Richard Cassidy, MD. "Our study also highlights healthcare disparities in the oncology community and showcases a need for the oncology community to address. This may provide information to guide outreach programs to engage the elderly community in seeking appropriate therapy for stage III lung cancer."