A new global study shows 11% of patients with lung cancer (that’s one in 10) do not know what type of tumour they have.

The 17-country study carried out by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition(GLCC) is being presented at the European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) 2021 Virtual Official Congress this week.

The data also reveals that nearly one in five patients surveyed did not feel involved in decisions about their treatment and care, and a similar proportion felt that they had never or only sometimes been treated with dignity and respect by those treating them.

This is a huge and troubling gap in the patient journey. It also shines a light on opportunities to educate and empower patients (and their families) so they can be advocates for their own care.

Vanessa Beattie

“I was shocked that some people didn’t know what type of lung cancer they had because, if they didn’t have that information, how could they understand their treatment options for making decisions about their care?” Vanessa Beattie, from the GLCC, said in a statement. “Receiving a diagnosis of lung cancer is devastating and it’s crucial that patients receive good quality information from the start so they are empowered to make informed decisions about their treatment. At diagnosis, they should be offered information – written or in another form – about their type and stage of cancer and a potential treatment plan which they can discuss with their cancer team and their family

While cancers services and education programs vary around the globe, Beattie said there’s a universal takeaway: Clinicians need to keep challenging themselves to drive improvements in lung cancer care and engage with patients to address their individual needs. “There is still a stigma attached to lung cancer because of its links with smoking, but every patient should be treated with dignity and respect at all times and have a positive experience of care wherever they are treated, including opportunities to talk about their concerns.”

The study suggests that language differences and the increasing complexity of treatments can make it difficult for patients to communicate with their medical team and this may impact individuals’ care, as well as recent progress in patient empowerment.

In addition, a second study to be presented at ELCC highlights the significant need for interpreters at cancer clinics.

Dr. Tianna Martin

“A lack of patient understanding of their disease is a major issue especially for those with lung cancer as there have been a lot of recent advances in targeted therapies which patients take at home rather than in hospital. If there is a language barrier, patients may miss appointments or take their medicines incorrectly which can affect their prognosis and quality of life,” said lead investigator, Dr. Tianna Martin, who works at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

Dr. Martin suggests that records of patients with language needs should be flagged ‘at risk’ so that clinicians check carefully to ensure that appropriate translation services are in place. She also proposed that, given the growing complexity of lung cancer treatments, specialized training should be given to interpreters at cancer clinics.

Professor Sanjay Popat, from the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK, said that the results of both studies should be a wake-up call to all healthcare professionals to put processes in place to ensure effective communication. “The statistics from the GLCC survey paint a bleak picture and at least 11% of patients not knowing their type of lung cancer is a very damning statistic. We want patients to be empowered to make decisions about how and where they want to be treated and that can only happen if we have good communication at all stages, with shared aims and goals.”

At CONNECT, we strongly believe that an informed patient is an empowered patients. It’s our mandate to facilitate a stronger collaboration between industry professionals, healthcare providers and patients, for improved disease management, optimal treatment and—ultimately—a better patient journey.


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