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Lung Cancer Surgery Myths May Delay Care

Racial Difference in Beliefs about Lung Cancer Surgery Found

WebMD Health News

Oct. 6, 2003 -- Myths about lung cancer surgery may prevent many people from receiving potentially life-saving treatment for what is said to be the deadliest form of cancer.

A new study shows that nearly 40% of lung cancer patients said they believed exposing lung cancer to the air during surgery promotes growth of the cancer.

Researchers found this belief was especially common among African Americans. More than 60% of African American lung cancer patients said they believe air exposure during surgery causes tumors to spread compared with 29% of whites.

This belief was strong enough that 19% of African Americans said they would refuse surgery even if their doctor recommended it. Another 14% said they wouldn't accept their doctor's assertion that this belief was false.

Myths About Lung Cancer Surgery Troubling

For the study, which appears in the Oct. 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers surveyed 625 lung cancer patients in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Charleston, S.C., about their beliefs about lung cancer surgery.

A total of 38% of the patients said they believed air exposure caused lung cancers to spread.

Researcher Mitchell Margolis, MD, of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues say this finding is surprising because there is no scientific evidence to support this belief that exposure to air causes lung cancer to spread.

They say it's also particularly troubling because lung cancer is more prevalent among African Americans, and they have a lower five-year survival rate than others with lung cancer.

Researchers say the findings may help explain some of the racial disparities in lung cancer surgery and survival rates and call for culturally sensitive programs to address this issue.

Lung cancer causes more cancer-related deaths than any other type of cancer in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates that lung cancer will cause an estimated 157,000 deaths in 2003.

SOURCE: Margolis, M. Annals of Internal Medicine, Oct. 7, 2003; vol 139: pp 558-563. American Cancer Society.

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