Research into the treatment of lung cancer has achieved a possible breakthrough - after a new study showed survival times were nearly doubled for some patients - by combining the use of immunotherapy drugs with chemotherapy. We're going to have to find ways to pay for these drugs, said Dr. Roy Herbst,   Chief of Medical Oncology at Yale Cancer Center. "But I think if we're more personalized in how we use them

Black, elderly patients less likely to get lung cancer care

Researchers found a large age and race gap in treatment for patients diagnosed with lung cancer

Lung cancer, which is the second most common cancer in both men and women, accounts for about 13% of new cancers, according to the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society

But despite the disease being the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, a large number of those diagnosed do not receive treatment. And the number is even higher among certain populations: particularly elderly, black patients. 

» RELATED: High-risk smokers aren't getting tested for lung cancer, study says

A new study, which looked at data between 2010 and 2014, found that black patients diagnosed with lung cancer were 22% less likely to receive the recommended treatment than their white peers.

The researchers looked at data from more than 441,000 patients who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. In addition to the racial disparity in treatment, researchers also found people 80 and older were 88% less likely than people under 50 years old to seek treatment.

» RELATED: This common blood pressure medication linked to greater lung cancer risk, study says

While researchers say factors like access and affordability may contribute to the gap, the full reason why people don’t seek treatment remains unknown.

“While these findings are very concerning, it has always been easier to identify disparities in care than it has been to understand why they persist,” Dr. Douglas Arenberg, the study’s author, said in a statement. 

» RELATED: Healing process after breast cancer surgery could cause cancer to spread in mice, study says

Researchers note that the data analyzed from the National Cancer Database does not include information about why individuals did not seek to pursue treatment options, such as the recommended rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, which are linked to higher odds of survival.

Doctors say that early and aggressive treatment is most effective in combating lung cancer. Depending on the stage and type of cancer, it’s usually recommended that patients seek treatment options that include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, according to a report from Reuters health.

Additional findings include:

  • Overall, about 60% of people diagnosed with lung cancer receive the full recommended treatment.
  • About 22% of people received no treatment at all.
  • Hispanic patients were 8% less likely than their white peers to receive treatment. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.