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Prior research has revealed significant racial disparities in the diagnosis of lung cancer. Researchers from the University of Colorado examined differences in initial diagnostic imaging use and compared how these data relate to cancer-specific survival rates in Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic Black patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.

The researchers collected data from the Medicare database that were recorded over eight years. Study participants included 28,881 non-Hispanic white, 3,123 non-Hispanic Black, and 1,907 Hispanic patients. All patients were Medicare recipients, 66 years old or older, who had been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer.

The research team compared positron emission tomography (PET) imaging use with computerized tomography (CT) imaging use at diagnosis among the population groups. Survival rates and treatment data were analyzed. Results were adjusted for demographic, community, and treatment facility characteristics.

Ultimately, it was found that non-Hispanic Black patients were less likely to have had PET or CT imaging, and Hispanic patients were less likely to have had PET with CT imaging than non-Hispanic white patients at diagnosis. Moreover, patients diagnosed with the utilization of PET and CT scans had improved 12-month cancer-specific survival rates.

The researchers concluded that racial disparities exist in the utilization of diagnostic imaging for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Both non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic patients were shown to be less likely to have guideline-recommended PET with CT imaging performed at the time of initial diagnosis.

A call to action is made for oncologists to be aware of these racial disparities and use these findings to provide equitable diagnostic imaging for non-Hispanic Black patients and Hispanic patients with suspected lung cancer [1].

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[1] Morgan, R. L., Karam, S. D., & Bradley, C. J. (2020). Ethnic Disparities in imaging utilization at diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 112(12), 1204–1212. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djaa034