Minorities face longer wait times for vital lung cancer treatment, study finds

Researchers find five to 11 day difference in wait time between white patients and minority patients

Aisha Rimi
Tuesday 25 October 2022 21:28 BST
Results showed that delays were not limited to a particular type of treatment facility
Results showed that delays were not limited to a particular type of treatment facility (Getty Images)

Patients from minority groups are facing longer wait times for potentially life-saving lung cancer treatment compared to their white counterparts, according to a study.

Experts warn that disparities can have real consequences – the earlier treatment is initiated, the better the health outcomes for patients.

Researchers at the University of Virginia (UVA) Cancer Centre reviewed data from more than 222,700 patients with non-small cell lung cancer across the US.

The findings, published in the scientific journal Health Equity, showed that the mean time for radiation initiation was 61.7 days.

Broken down by ethnicity, white patients had to wait only 60.9 days, while Black patients had a wait time of 65.9 days, meanwhile for Asian patients, it was 71.9 days.

A single-week delay in treatment could lead to a 3.2 per cent and 1.6 per cent increase in the risk of death for patients with stage I and stage II non-small cell lung cancer respectively.

“Our results suggest that non-white lung cancer patients have delayed time to cancer treatment compared with white patients, and this is not limited to a particular type of treatment facility,” said senior researcher Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, of UVA Cancer Center and the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

“Collaboration among providers and community stakeholders and organisations is much needed to increase accessibility and patient knowledge of cancer and to overcome existing disparities in timely care for lung cancer patients.”

Scientists cite multiple reasons for the racial disparities, including health insurance – non-white patients are more likely to be uninsured, face greater socioeconomic barriers to care and may be perceived by doctors as being at risk for not following through with treatment plans.

Minorities are also more likely to report less satisfaction with their encounters with care providers.

Racial disparities were found across all types of hospitals, with white patients consistently experiencing the shortest wait times for treatment, while Asian patients had the longest.

“These findings shed light on the potential presence of and impact of structural racism on patients seeking cancer treatment,” the researchers wrote.

“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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