Objective: Patients with schizophrenia sometimes receive substandard medical care. This study explored such disparities among lung cancer patients with underlying schizophrenia. Methods: This retrospective study focused on patients with pre-existing schizophrenia (or in some instances schizoaffective disorder) and a lung cancer diagnosis made between 1980 and 2004. 'Disparity' was defined as a patient's having been prescribed less aggressive therapy for a potentially curable cancer based on state-of-the-art treatment standards for the time and for the cancer stage. Qualitative methods were used to assess healthcare providers' decision-making. Results: 29 patients were included. The median age was 59 years; 38% were men. Twenty-three had non-small cell lung cancer and 6 small cell lung cancer; 17 had potentially curable cancers. Five of 17 had a 'disparity' in cancer care: (1) no cancer therapy was prescribed because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; (2) no cancer therapy was prescribed because of infection; (3) no chemotherapy was prescribed because the patient declined it; radiation was provided; (4) no chemotherapy was prescribed because of the patient's schizophrenia symptoms; radiation was administered; and (5) no surgery was performed because of disorientation from a lobotomy; radiation was prescribed. Comments from healthcare providers suggest reflection and ethical adjudication in decision-making. Conclusion: Schizophrenia was never the sole reason for no cancer treatment in patients with potentially curable lung cancer. This study provides the impetus for others to begin to assess the effect of schizophrenia on lung cancer management in other healthcare settings.
- Lung cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health