The Influence of Physician and Patient Gender on Risk Assessment for Lung Cancer Resection

Ann Thorac Surg. 2017 Jul;104(1):284-289. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2017.01.066. Epub 2017 Apr 12.


Background: Women do not receive appropriate surgical therapy for lung cancer as often as men. Patient gender may influence treatment recommendations; less is known about the effect of physician gender on recommendations.

Methods: Gender-neutral vignettes representing low-risk, average-risk, and high-risk candidates for lung resection were paired with concordant videos of standardized patients (SPs). Cardiothoracic trainees and practicing thoracic surgeons read a vignette, provided an initial estimate of the percentage risk of major adverse events after lung resection, viewed a video (randomized to male or female SP), provided a final estimate of risk, and ranked the importance of the video in the final risk estimate.

Results: Overall, 107 surgeons participated, of whom 90 were men. Initial estimated risks mirrored actual vignette risks: 10.4% ± 9.9 for low risk, 17.6% ± 13.2 for average risk, and 21.0% ± 14.7 for high risk (p < 0.001). After SP videos were viewed and final risk estimates were rendered, there was a significant difference between male and female physicians in the absolute change in estimated risk (p = 0.002), with male physicians having larger changes than female physicians. There was also an effect of SP gender that varied by vignette type (p < 0.001). Increasing video importance scores were directly associated with increasing change in risk scores for average-risk and high-risk vignette/video combinations (p < 0.001 for each).

Conclusions: Differences in estimating complication risk for lung resection candidates are related to physician and patient gender. This may influence recommendations for surgical treatment. Understanding such differences may help reduce inequities in treatment recommendations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patients*
  • Physicians*
  • Pneumonectomy*
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Video Recording