Rurality, Stage-Stratified Use of Treatment Modalities, and Survival of Non-small Cell Lung Cancer


Background: To eliminate them, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) care and outcome disparities need to be better understood. Research Question: How does rurality interact with NSCLC care and outcome disparities? Study Design and Methods: We examined guideline-concordant use of active treatment for NSCLC across five institutions in one community-based health care system spanning 44% of the Delta Regional Authority catchment area from 2011 to 2017. Institution- and patient-level rurality were based on Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes. Chi-squared, F-tests, and logistic regressions were used to analyze differences across institutions and rurality; survival was examined using log-rank tests and Cox regression. Results: Of 6,259 patients, 47% resided in rural areas; two of five institutions were rurally located and provided care for 20% of patients. Compared with rural residents at rural institutions, urban and rural residents attending urban institutions were more likely to receive stage-preferred treatment: OR 1.68 (95%CI, 1.44-1.96), and 1.33 (1.11-1.61), respectively, after adjusting for insurance, age, and clinical stage. Urban and rural residents attending urban institutions had a lower hazard of death compared with rural residents attending rural institutions: hazard ratio (HR) 0.69 (0.64-0.75) and 0.61 (0.55-0.67), respectively. Among recipients of stage-preferred treatment, care at urban institutions remained less hazardous: HR 0.7 (0.63-0.79). When further stratified by stage, care for late-stage patients at urban institutions remained less hazardous: HR 0.8 (0.71-0.91). Interpretation: Rurality-associated treatment and survival disparities were present at the patient and institution levels, but the institution-level disparity was greater. Rural residents receiving care at urban institutions had similar outcomes to urban residents receiving care at urban hospitals. To overcome rurality-associated NSCLC survival disparity, interventions should preferentially target the institution level, including expanding access to higher-quality guideline-concordant care.

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