Management of patients with early stage lung cancer – why do some patients not receive treatment with curative intent?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in New Zealand. More so, mortality in Māori, the indigenous people in New Zealand, is 2.6 times greater than New Zealand Europeans. This study aimed to understand factors that influence whether patients receive potentially curative treatment  for early stage lung cancer, and whether Māori patients were less likely to receive treatment. The study found the likelihood of Māori patients having curative treatment was similar to non-Māori patients, which excludes ethnic basis as a barrier to equity of care and treatment allocation. The influencing variables were found to be factors such as significant comorbidities and poor lung function with 22.6% and 14.6% of patients not receiving curative treatment, respectively. This indicates that outcomes for Māori patients can be improved by addressing smoking and the management of comorbidities. Furthermore, the study concluded that the majority of patients with stage I and stage II lung cancer are treated with potentially curative treatment however, the majority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed at a later stage. This suggests that an improvement in mortality can be achieved with an increase in proportion of patients diagnosed at an early stage. Aptly so, the next target is to increase the population of lung cancer patients diagnosed with early stage disease.

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