Patients with no symptoms at lung cancer diagnosis receive less intensive interventions, finds study by HealthHelp and Humana

June 16, 2016

A new study examines the relationship between patients’ symptoms at the time of lung cancer diagnosis by computed tomography and the healthcare services utilized in the first year after diagnosis. The study was conducted by Humana, a national health plan, in conjunction with specialty benefit management company HealthHelp.

The study examined patients who received a lung cancer diagnosis from a CT screening. To qualify, there must have been no mention of lung cancer in the patient’s claims during the twelve months before diagnosis and patients must have survived at least twelve months after diagnosis. Patients were divided into four categories—morbidities unrelated to lung cancer, classic lung cancer symptoms, cancer syndromes, no diagnosis/symptoms—and frequency and intensity of treatment were monitored. All patients were members of a Humana Medicare Advantage plan.

The study’s authors found the greatest disparities in care existed between the cancer syndromes and the no diagnosis/symptoms groups. Of patients in the cancer syndromes group, 47 percent received advanced treatment, compared to 24 percent of patients in the no diagnosis/symptoms groups. Similarly, 29 percent of patients in the cancer syndromes group received palliative care compared to 13 percent for patients in the no symptoms/diagnosis group. Patients classified as having morbidities unrelated to lung cancer and classic lung cancer symptoms fell within these ranges for both advanced treatment and palliative care.

According to lead author Adam C. Powell, Ph.D., “The results of our study suggest that the first year experience following a diagnosis of lung cancer will vary depending on a patient’s presentation at screening. As screenings for at-risk individuals are on the rise, this information can empower patients facing a new diagnosis of lung cancer and inform organizations like HealthHelp and Humana, which are committed to providing high-quality care to the populations they serve.”

The abstract for this study was published in conjunction with the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting. To read the full abstract, visit

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