Disparities in the surgical management of early stage non-small cell lung cancer: how far have we come?
It is currently estimated that nearly one-third of patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have stage I–II disease on clinical evaluation. Curative-intent surgical resection has been a cornerstone of the therapeutic management of such patients, offering the best clinical and oncologic outcomes in the long-term. In 1999, Peter Bach and colleagues brought attention to racial disparities in the receipt of curative-intent surgery in the NSCLC population. In the time since this seminal study, there is accumulating evidence to suggest that disparities in the receipt of definitive surgery continue to persist for patients with early stage NSCLC. In this review, we sought to provide an up-to-date assessment of 20 years of surgical disparities literature in the NSCLC population. We summarized common and unrecognized disparities in the receipt of surgical resection for early stage NSCLC and demonstrated that demographic and socioeconomic factors such as race/ethnicity, special patient groups, income and insurance continue to impact the receipt of definitive resection. Additionally, we found that discrepancies in patient and provider perceptions of and attitudes toward surgery, access to invasive staging, distance to treatment centers and negative stigmas about lung cancer that patients experience may act to perpetuate disparities in surgical treatment of early stage lung cancer.