Purpose: Globally, lung cancer is the most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death. Problematically, there is a wide variation in the management and survival for people with lung cancer and there is limited understanding of the reasons for these variations. To date, the views of health professionals across relevant disciplines who deliver such care are largely absent. The present study describes Australian health professionals’ views about barriers to lung cancer care to help build a research and action agenda for improving lung cancer outcomes.
Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a multidisciplinary group of 31 Australian health professionals working in lung cancer care for an average of 16 years (range 1–35 yrs.; SD = 10.2) seeing a mean of 116 patients annually.
Results: Three superordinate themes were identified: illness representations, cultural influences, and health system context. Illness representations included three themes: symptoms attributed as smoking-related but not cancer, health-related stigma, and therapeutic nihilism. Cultural influence themes included Indigenous health care preferences, language and communication, and sociodemographic factors. Health system context included lack of regional services and distance to treatment, poor care coordination, lack of effective screening methods, and health professional behaviours.
Conclusions: Fractured and locally isolated approaches routinely confound responses to the social, cultural and health system complexities that surround a diagnosis of lung cancer and subsequent treatment. Improving outcomes for this disadvantaged patient group will require government, health agencies, and the community to take an aggressive, integrated approach balancing health policy, treatment priorities, and societal values.