Re-Biopsies in Lung Cancer: When Benefits Are Explained, Patients Are Willing

According to a recent survey, most patients with lung cancer are willing to undergo additional biopsies if they have a grasp on how and why it could help them. 
BY LAUREN M. GREEN @OncNurseEditor
Doctors may be surprised to know that their patients with lung cancer are more than willing to undergo additional biopsies when they understand the procedure may hold the key to expanding their treatment options.
Almost 82 percent of 340 lung cancer survivors participating in a national survey sponsored by the advocacy group LUNGevity said that they would consent to an additional biopsy if they knew it would help their healthcare team better match treatment to their specific cancer and personalize their care, versus just being told the test was “to look for mutations.”
This willingness to have an additional biopsy even held true among the nearly 50 percent of respondents who reported pain or complications from their initial biopsy, according to the survey. This group indicated an equal willingness to have another biopsy as those who didn’t have any issues with the first one.
The findings, reported at the recent annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) in Vienna, Austria, grew out of a desire by LUNGevity to shed more light on anecdotal reports that physicians are reluctant to recommend additional biopsies because they assume that patients are likely to refuse.
Upal Basu-Roy, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., Director of Research and Policy at LUNGevity and an author on the study, said in an interview with CURE that during one of the group’s annual HOPE survivorship summits, patients had identified as an unmet need the failure to be advised of how a re-biopsy might open up additional treatment options to them.
“There was obviously a [communication] gap on both sides,” Basu-Roy said, and that provided the catalyst for the national survey, he added, “so we could ask patients directly.”
Basu-Roy acknowledged that biopsy can be difficult, and re-biopsies aren’t for every patient with lung cancer. Issues specific to lung biopsy include the patient’s general health status, the health and condition of the lung to have another biopsy and also the location of the cancer in the lung. “When you talk to a patient about biopsy, the first thing that comes to mind is that it can be a very stressful and painful process.”
Nevertheless, Basu-Roy said that he and his colleagues at LUNGevity were surprised to find overwhelming support for re-biopsy among the lung cancer survivors responding to this national survey. “We had these anecdotal stories from patients and doctors, but the big, striking, finding was that 8 out of 10 of the respondents were willing to undergo additional biopsy when the end benefit of matching the patient to a targeted therapy and more personalized treatment was explained to them.”  

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