Absence of pathological proof of cancer associated with improved outcomes in early-stage lung cancer

Talha Shaikh, Thomas M. Churilla, Colin T. Murphy, Nicholas G. Zaorsky, Alan Haber, Mark A. Hallman, Joshua E. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the trends in use of clinical diagnosis and its impact on treatment outcomes in patients receiving radiation therapy for early-stage lung cancer. Methods: The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry was queried from 2004 to 2012 for patients at least 18 years old in whom stage I (clinical stage T1a-T2a) lung cancer had been diagnosed and who underwent radiation therapy alone. Trends in diagnostic confirmation patterns were characterized. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to assess overall survival, and competing risk regression analysis was used to assess cancer-specific survival (CSS). Results: A total of 7050 patients were included; the disease of 6399 of them (90.8%) was pathologically diagnosed and that of 651 (9.2%) was clinically diagnosed. There was no significant change in the utilization of clinical versus pathologic diagnosis (p = 0.172) over time. Patients with T1 disease (p < 0.001), tumors 0 to 1.9 cm in size (p < 0.001), and upper lobe tumors (p = 0.004) were more likely to have been clinically diagnosed. On multivariable analysis, clinical diagnosis was associated with an improved CSS (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.82, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.71-0.96) but was not associated with an improved overall survival (HR = 1.01, 95% CI: 0.90-1.13). When stratified by T stage, patients whose disease had been clinically diagnosed as stage T1a had an improved CSS (HR = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.58-0.96, p = 0.022). There was a trend toward improved CSS in patients with clinical stage T1b tumors (HR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.55-1.00, p = 0.052). Conclusions: The improved CSS in patients with a clinical diagnosis suggests treatment of benign disease, particularly in smaller tumors. Prudent patient selection is needed to reduce the potential for overtreatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1112-1120
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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