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Black, Hispanic, Asian lung cancer patients encounter delays in getting advanced radiation treatment

Black, Hispanic, and Asian lung cancer patients encountered significant delays in receiving a more advanced, targeted form of radiation therapy during the years 2004 and 2017.

Traditional radiation often exposes organs next to the tumor to the full dose of radiation. However, a new form of radiation called intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) matches the precise contours of a tumor to minimize the dose to the surrounding healthy tissue. This allows for decreased side effects and improved quality of life.

However, IMRT brings a larger price tag, and many insurance companies require prior authorizations, which can introduce delays in treatment. Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 350,000 patients and found that White patients were much less likely to experience these delays.

Compared with White lung cancer patients, Hispanic and Asian lung cancer patients were more than twice as likely to experience delays, while Black patients were more than 35 percent more likely.

“Our previous work demonstrated that racial and ethnic disparities in the use of IMRT exist and are actually worsening over time,” says radiation oncologist Ryan Hutten, MD, of the Huntsman Cancer Institute researcher at the University of Utah. “We know there are enormous consequences to treatment delays, and we know minority groups have inferior oncologic outcomes. This work helps to identify an actionable area to improve equity in delivery of advanced radiation treatments.”