Background: Prior studies in the civilian population have reported racial disparities in lung cancer outcomes following surgical treatment, including inferior quality of care and worse survival. It is unclear if racial disparities exist in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the largest integrated health care system in the United States. Research Question: Do racial disparities affect early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) outcomes following surgical treatment within the VHA? Study Design and Methods: This retrospective cohort study was conducted in veterans with clinical stage I NSCLC undergoing surgical treatment in the VHA system. Demographic characteristics, access to care, surgical quality measures, and short- and long-term oncologic outcomes between White and Black veterans were evaluated. Results: From 2006 to 2016, a total of 18,800 veterans with clinical stage I NSCLC were included. The rates of definitive surgical treatment were similar between Black (57.3%) and White (58.1%) veterans (P =.42). The final study cohort included 9,842 patients receiving surgical treatment, of whom 8,356 (84.9%) were White and 1,486 (15.1%) were Black. Black patients were younger and more likely to smoke, although comorbidities were similar between the two groups. Black patients were somewhat less likely to receive adequate lymph node sampling (30.6% vs 33.3%; P =.050); however, other access-to-care metrics and surgical quality measures, including rates of anatomic lobectomy (71.9% vs 69.4%; P =.189) and positive margins (3.2% vs 3.1%; P =.955), were similar between the two groups. Although Black veterans were less likely to experience major postoperative complications, there was no difference in 30-day readmission, 30-day mortality, or disease-free survival between the two groups. Black patients had significantly better risk-adjusted overall survival (hazard ratio, 0.802; 95% CI, 0.729-0.883; P <.001). Interpretation: Among veterans with NSCLC undergoing surgical treatment through the VHA, Black patients received comparable care with equivalent if not superior outcomes compared with White patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)920-929
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Veterans Health Administration
  • lung cancer
  • racial disparities
  • thoracic surgery


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