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How much do existing medical problems impact lung cancer?


Woman on bench reflectingBY AMBER SMITH

When people are diagnosed with lung cancer, they usually ask about survival odds.

Doctors have used calculation methods that take into account the patient‘s other diseases, known as comorbidities.

A cancer expert at Upstate suggests those calculations may be outdated.

Ajeet Gajra, MD

Ajeet Gajra, MD

Ajeet Gajra, MD, writes in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology that some diseases have a greater impact than others on the treatment for and survivability of lung cancer.

He cites one analysis that compared lung cancer patients who had multiple health problems with those who did not. The two groups of patients survived for similar lengths of time. In another analysis, patients with severe comorbidities reported a poorer health-related quality of life -- but their conditions did not deteriorate significantly more than patients with fewer health problems.

Considering a patient‘s other diseases is important, Gajra says, but due to the complexities of various diseases on physical function and physiologic organ function, that should be part of a full evaluation.

He shares three better predictors of a lung cancer patient‘s survival: whether he or she is 1.) a cigarette smoker, 2.} age 80 or older or 3.) in poor general health.

Common ‘comorbidities‘

The vast majority of Americans 65 and older have multiple health issues that could impact lung cancer treatment, including:

-- High blood pressure, 73%

-- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 57%

-- Ischemic heart disease, 53%

-- Diabetes, 32%

-- Congestive cardiac failure, 31%

-- Chronic kidney disease, 30%

-- Depression, 21%

Fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazineThis article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.