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UNC study helps explain why black patients with lung cancer have surgery less often than whites
Date:6/15/2010

CHAPEL HILL A new study led by UNC researchers that looks at newly diagnosed lung cancer patients and follows them from diagnosis forward is one of the first to give reasons why patients don't go to lung surgery and why surgery happens less often in blacks.

"Our most profound finding was the fact that African Americans with two or more additional medical conditions had almost zero surgeries, only about four out of 100, whereas white patients in the same situation had surgery just as often as if they didn't have these conditions," said Samuel Cykert, MD, lead author of this American Cancer Society-funded study, which is published in the June 16, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"In addition, if an African-American patient in our study did not have a regular source of care, a primary care doctor, then the odds of going to surgery were only one-fifth that of white patients," said Cykert, associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine, a clinician at the Greensboro Area Health Education Center and a member of UNC's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Among patients newly diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, surgery to remove the diseased portion of lung is the only reliable cure, Cykert said. With surgery, at least half will survive more than four years. Without it, most will die within a year. Studies looking back at patients through insurance claims and cancer registries have shown for years that black lung cancer patients get surgery much less often then whites but these studies have been unable to explain why.

Possible explanations suggested by his study for the differences in surgical rates for blacks compared to whites, Cykert said, include perceptions by black patients of poor doctor-patient communication. Also, black patients were less likely than whites to have primary care providers or other sources of support that could help them either reconsider the decision
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Contact: Tom Hughes
tahughes@unch.unc.edu
919-966-6047
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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