Objective: Screening for lung cancer will discover many nodules of indeterminate pathology. Observation has the theoretic risk of permitting dissemination of a localized cancer and worsening prognosis, whereas immediate evaluation of benign conditions generates morbidity and cost. This study was conducted to assess the effect of delay in surgical intervention on survival for patients with early stage non-small cell lung cancer.
Methods: Records for patients with resected pathologic stage I and II non-small cell lung cancer (1989-1999) were abstracted for patient age, race, sex, medical history, date of presentation, date and type of surgical treatment, pathologic stage, and date of death or last follow-up. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was performed to test for the effect of delay (time from presentation to surgical intervention) on survival.
Results: Eighty-four patients were identified. Median age was 66 years, median preoperative interval was 82 days (range, 1-641 days), and median follow-up was 3.3 years (range, 5 days-11.9 years). Median survival was 3.7 years. Overall 5-year survival was 40%; disease-specific 5-year survival was 63%. Log-rank analysis of the effect of delay on overall survival generated a P value of.54, with an estimated hazard ratio for a 90-day delay of 1.06 (95% confidence interval, 0.87-1.30).
Conclusions: For this population, we were unable to detect a significant effect of delay on prognosis. Although these results suggest that the risk of judicious observation of indeterminate pulmonary nodules might be low, the 95% confidence interval is broad. Larger sample sizes are needed to reach definitive conclusions.