Potential disparities in the diagnosis, treatment, and survival of patients with lung cancer with and without disabilities have rarely been investigated.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study with a data set linking the Korean National Health Service database, disability registration data, and Korean Central Cancer Registry data. A total of 13,591 people with disabilities in whom lung cancer had been diagnosed and 43,809 age- and sex-matched control subjects in whom lung cancer had been diagnosed were included.
Unknown stage was more common in people with severe disabilities (13.1% versus 10.3%), especially those with a communication (14.2%) or mental/cognitive disability (15.7%). People with disabilities were less likely to undergo a surgical procedure (adjusted OR [aOR] = 0.82, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.77-0.86), chemotherapy (aOR = 0.80, 95% CI: 0.77-0.84), or radiotherapy (aOR = 0.92, 95% CI: 0.88-0.96). This higher likelihood was more evident for people with severe communication impairment (aORs of 0.46 for surgery and 0.64 for chemotherapy) and severe brain/mental impairment (aORs 0.39 for surgery, 0.47 for chemotherapy, and 0.49 for radiotherapy). Patients with disabilities had a slightly higher overall mortality than did people with no disability (adjusted hazard ratio = 1.08, 95% CI: 1.06-1.11), especially in the group with a severe disability (a hazard ratio = 1.20, 95% CI: 1.16-1.24).
Patients with lung cancer and disabilities, especially severe ones, underwent less staging work-up and treatment even though their treatment outcomes were only slightly worse than those of people without a disability. Although some degree of disparity might be attributed to reasonable clinical judgement, unequal clinical care for people with communication and brain/mental disabilities suggests unjustifiable disability-related barriers that need to be addressed.
Keywords : Lung cancer; Disability; Stage; Treatment; Survival