According to an article recently published in the journal Cancer, certain patients diagnosed with Stage I non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have a worse prognosis than their counterparts with this stage of disease.

Non–small cell lung cancer accounts for approximately 75–80% of all lung cancers in the United States. Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

Stage I NSCLC refers to the earliest stage of lung cancer, prior to spread. Cure rate for patients with stage I NSCLC are good following standard therapies; however, a significant portion of patients will experience a cancer recurrence and ultimately succumb to their disease.

Researchers from California recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate potential variables that may be related to the risk of a cancer recurrence among patients with Stage I NSCLC. This study included over 19,700 patients identified in the California Cancer Registry between 1989 and 2003.

  • Advanced age at diagnosis, male sex, low socioeconomic status, treatment that did not include surgery, and poor histologic grade (microscopic structure indicating aggressive nature) were associated with increased mortality.
  • Cancer that was not located in an upper lobe of the lungs and a cancer larger than 4 centimeters also increased the risk of mortality.
  • Bronchioloalveolar carcinoma (type of NSCLC) and Asian ethnicity were associated with a decreased risk of mortality.

The researchers concluded: “Stage I NSCLC with poorly differentiated histology and stage IB NSCLC with nonupper lobar tumor location or tumor size [greater than] 4 cm carried an increased mortality risk.” Understanding a patient’s risk of a recurrence can help guide treatment decisions.

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Patients diagnosed with Stage I NSCLC may wish to discuss their individual risks and benefits of all treatment options with their physician.

Reference: Ou S-H, Zell J, Ziogas A, Anton-Culver H. Prognostic factors for survival of Stage I non–small cell lung cancer patients. Cancer. 2007;110:1532 – 1541.

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