Barriers to Lung Cancer Referral, Diagnosis, and Treatment in Central America and the Caribbean: The Health Professionals’ Perspectives

Purpose: To identify the perspectives from healthcare providers about the limitations in referral, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer (LC) patients.

Methods: A cross-sectional study through an Internet-based survey was addressed to physicians of multidisciplinary teams in charge of LC patients from Cuba, Curacao, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. The questions focused on physicians’ perspectives concerning waiting times and the availability of diagnostic and staging procedures in their settings, as well as the access to systemic therapies and continuous medical education (CME).

Results: A total of 152 physicians responded to the online questionnaire (response rate 24.9%). Delays in biopsy results were the main barrier for LC diagnosis as identified by 48.2% of the respondents, followed by patients not being referred in time (31.3%), delays for staging procedures (11.4%), and time taken for biopsy (9%). Almost one-half of physicians perceived that patients are diagnosed in advanced stages. A total of 29 respondent physicians (19.1%) reported limited access to immunohistochemical or genetic analysis for common mutations. Although 73 physicians (48.0%) confirmed that their centers provided radiotherapy and systemic therapy for their patients, immunotherapy was not available in the institutions of 30 physicians (19.7%). A total of 42 practitioners (27.6%) reported that they did not have access to CME on LC topics due to working or budget restrictions.

Conclusions: This study revealed among respondents the main barriers for an appropriate management of LC patients in the Central American and Caribbean Region. Further studies must validate these findings.

Keywords: Caribbean region; Central America; Lung cancer; Referral and consultation.