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Cancer. 2012 Mar 1;118(5):1404-11. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26363. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

Improved outcomes associated with higher surgery rates for older patients with early stage nonsmall cell lung cancer.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Although surgery offers the greatest chance of a cure for patients with early stage nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC), older and sicker patients often fail to undergo resection. The benefits of surgery in older patients and patients with multiple comorbidities are uncertain.


The authors identified a national cohort of 17,638 Medicare beneficiaries aged ≥66 years living in Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) areas who were diagnosed with stage I or II NSCLC during 2001 to 2005. Areas with high and low rates of curative surgery for early stage lung cancer were compared to estimate the effectiveness of surgery in older and sicker patients. Logistic regression models were used to assess mortality according to the quintile of area-level surgery rates, adjusting for potential confounders.


Less than 63% of patients underwent surgery in low-surgery areas, whereas >79% underwent surgery in high-surgery areas. High-surgery areas operated on more patients of advanced age and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than low-surgery areas. The adjusted all-cause 1 year mortality was 18% in high-surgery areas versus 22.8% in low-surgery areas (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86-0.93) for each 10% increase in the surgery rate).The 1-year lung-cancer-specific mortality similarly was lower in high-surgery areas (12%) versus low-surgery areas (16.9%; adjusted OR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.82-0.91) for each 10% increase in the surgery rate.


Higher rates of surgery for stage I/II NSCLC were associated with improved survival, even when older patients and sicker patients underwent resection. The authors concluded that more work is needed to identify and reduce barriers to surgery for early stage NSCLC.

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