Variations in Surgeon Treatment Recommendations for Lobectomy in Early-Stage Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer by Patient Age and Comorbidity

Published in: Annals of Surgical Oncology, v. 17, no. 6, June 2010, p. 1581-1588

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2010

by Selwyn O. Rogers, Stacy W Gray, Mary Beth Landrum, Carrie N. Klabunde, Katherine L. Kahn, Robert H. Fletcher, Steven Clauser, Diana M. Tisnado, William R. Doucette, Nancy L. Keating

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Background: Prior research suggests that older patients are less likely to undergo resection of early-stage non-small-cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs). We surveyed surgeons to understand how their recommendations for lobectomy were influenced by age, the presence and severity of smoking-related lung disease, or by characteristics of the surgeons and their practices. Methods: We surveyed surgeons caring for NSCLC patients regarding whether they would recommend lobectomy for hypothetical patients with early-stage NSCLC who varied by age (55 vs. 80 years) and comorbid illness (none, moderate, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]). Ordinal logistic regression was used to identify the importance of patient, surgeon, and practice characteristics on surgery recommendations. Results: Surgeons recommended lobectomy for nearly all patients who were 55 years old with no comorbidity (adjusted proportion 98.6%), 55 years old with moderate COPD (adjusted proportion 97.8%), or 80 years old with no comorbidity (adjusted proportion 98.1%). Fewer recommended lobectomy for 80-year-old patients with moderate COPD (adjusted proportion 82.3%), and far fewer recommended lobectomy for severe COPD, irrespective of age (adjusted rate 18.7% for the 55-year-old patient and 6.1% for the 80-year-old patient) (P < 0.002). Surgeons who enroll patients onto clinical trials (P = 0.03) were more likely than others to recommend lobectomy, but no other surgeon characteristic predicted recommendations. Conclusions: Lower rates of lobectomy among older patients do not seem to be explained by age-related biases among surgeons for otherwise healthy patients.

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