Delaying lung cancer surgery associated with high risk for recurrence and death

June 3, 2021

A new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that delaying lung cancer surgery for more than 12 weeks from the date of diagnosis with a CT scan is associated with a higher risk of recurrence and death.

For patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer, surgical removal of a tumor-infested lung or of a smaller lung section may be the only treatment needed. However, some patients postpone surgery while seeking second opinions, because of economic or social factors, or for personal reasons such as waiting until after a child’s wedding or a planned vacation. Worries about contracting COVID-19 in a clinical setting also have led to delays.

The findings are published in JAMA Network Open.

Non-small cell lung cancer comprises 84% of all lung cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society, and the overall five-year survival rate is 25%.

For the study, the researchers analyzed de-identified medical records in a database maintained by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest integrated health-care delivery system. The researchers examined information involving 9,904 patients with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer who underwent surgery from October 2006 through September 2016. The average age of the predominantly male patients was 67.

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