Purpose: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia, but little is known about how Australian patients with this disease are managed.
Methods: Lung cancer patients diagnosed from November 1, 2001 to December 31, 2002 were identified through the population-based New South Wales Central Cancer Registry. Information was collected on diagnosis, staging, referrals, and treatment. Cross-tabulations and logistic regression examined factors related to not receiving cancer-specific therapy.
Results: There were 2931 potentially eligible patients registered by the Central Cancer Registry and completed questionnaires were obtained for 1812 patients (62%); median age 71 years and 66% men. The pathology was non-small cell in 71%, small cell in 15% and not confirmed in 13% of patients. Eleven percent of patients did not see a lung cancer specialist and 33% received no cancer-specific therapy after initial diagnosis. Treatment utilization rates were 17% for surgery, 39% for radiotherapy, and 30% for chemotherapy. Factors significantly associated with having no cancer-specific therapy included female gender, older age, weight loss, poorer performance status, advanced or unknown disease stage, and consultation with a low patient volume lung cancer specialist or a non-lung cancer specialist. The median survival was 172 days and 2-year crude survival was 17%.
Conclusions: Treatment patterns were in broad concordance with present national guidelines. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of lung cancer patients did not receive cancer-specific therapy. Treatment decisions should be multidisciplinary and decision-makers should include experienced lung cancer specialists.