Lung cancer patients who had a hurricane disaster declared during radiotherapy had worse overall survival than those who completed treatment in normal circumstances. The finding comes from a report by American Cancer Society investigators published in JAMA, which suggests several mitigation strategies, including arranging for transferring treatment and eliminating patient out-of-network insurance charges during disasters.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes can interrupt the provision of oncology care. Radiotherapy is particularly vulnerable because it requires dependable electrical power and daily presence of specialized teams and patients for treatment delivery. Disruptions are especially concerning for patients undergoing treatment for locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) because treatment delays as little as two days can impact survival.
"While we could not analyze every potentially explanatory factor for the poorer outcomes in our study, treatment delay is one of the few hurricane-related disruptions that can actually be prevented," said Dr. Leticia Nogueira, lead ACS investigator. "Cancer patients receiving radiotherapy are a vulnerable population, and right now, there are no recommended strategies to mitigate treatment delays, so disaster management efforts that include tactics to identify patients, arrange for their treatment to be transferred, and to eliminate out-of-network insurance charges should be considered."
The authors say research is needed to evaluate the potential impact of other types of natural disasters on cancer and other diseases and their treatments.
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