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Radiotherapeutic Care of Patients With Stage IV Lung Cancer with Thoracic Symptoms in the Veterans Health Administration

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Background: Radiotherapy plays an important role in the palliation of lung cancer, which is the second most common cancer diagnosed in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) developed evidenced-based treatment guidelines for the management of patients with metastatic lung cancer.

Methods: In May 2016, an electronic survey of 88 VHA radiation oncologists (ROs) was conducted to assess metastatic lung cancer management. Demographic information was obtained and 2 clinical scenarios were presented to glean opinions on dose/fractionation schemes preferred, preferences for/against concurrent chemotherapy, and use of endobronchial brachytherapy (EBB) and/or yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) laser technology. Survey results were assessed for concordance with published ASTRO guidelines.

Results: The survey response rate was 61%, with 93% of the 40 VHA radiation departments represented. Among respondents, 96% were board certified, and 90% held academic appointments. 88% were familiar with ASTRO guidelines. Preferred fractionation schemes were 20 Gy in 5 fractions (69%) and 30 Gy in 10 fractions (22%). The vast majority (98%) did not recommend concurrent chemotherapy for palliation. In the setting of bronchial obstruction with lung collapse, about half (49%) recommended EBB or YAG lung reexpansion before external beam radiotherapy. A minority of respondents use stereotactic body radiotherapy or EBB for palliation.

Conclusion: Most respondents demonstrated up-to-date knowledge of current evidence-based treatment guidelines. We found no distinction in clinical decisions based on demographic profiles.



Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality both in the US and worldwide. 1 Many patients diagnosed with lung cancer present with advanced disease with thoracic symptoms such as cough, hemoptysis, dyspnea, and chest pain. 2-4 Palliative radiotherapy is routinely used in patients with locally advanced and metastatic lung cancer with the goal of relieving these symptoms and improving quality of life. Guidelines published by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) in 2011, and updated in 2018, provide recommendations on palliation of lung cancer with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) and clarify the roles of concurrent chemotherapy and endobronchial brachytherapy (EBB) for palliation. 5,6

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