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Ann Intern Med. 2003 Oct 7;139(7):558-63.

Racial differences pertaining to a belief about lung cancer surgery: results of a multicenter survey.

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  • 1University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.



Patients at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center frequently voice concern that air exposure during lung cancer surgery might cause tumor spread. Several African-American patients asserted that this belief was common in the African-American community.


To assess the prevalence of the belief that air exposure during lung cancer surgery might cause tumor spread and gauge the influence of this belief on the willingness of African-American and white patients to have lung cancer surgery.


Prospective questionnaire survey.


Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Los Angeles, California; and Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina.


626 consecutive patients in pulmonary and lung cancer clinics.




38% of patients (61% of whom were African American and 29% of whom were white) stated that they believe air exposure at surgery causes tumor spread. The most significant predictor of belief was African-American race (odds ratio, 3.5 [95% CI, 1.9 to 6.5]), even after controlling for other relevant variables in a multivariable analysis. Nineteen percent of African Americans stated that this belief was a reason for opposing surgery, and 14% would not accept their physicians' assertion that the belief is false. These rates were also statistically significantly higher among African-American than white patients.


Belief in accelerated tumor spread at surgery is prevalent among general pulmonary outpatients and lung cancer clinic patients facing lung surgery, particularly among African-American patients. Our findings may pertain to key racial disparities in lung cancer surgery and survival rates and suggest that culturally sensitive physician training or outreach programs directed at disparate beliefs and attitudes may help to address racial discrepancies in health care outcomes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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