Lung cancer screening has the potential to identify lung cancer at an early stage when more treatment options exist. However, discussions with and referrals of screening-eligible patients remain unacceptably low. We need to better understand clinician knowledge, attitudes, and practice patterns to identify strategies to improve lung cancer screening uptake. Prior studies have focused on understanding these factors from physicians only. Nevertheless, many patients receive primary care from nurse practitioners and physician assistants where prevention and early detection conversations are most likely to occur. Therefore, we must engage the full range of clinicians treating screening-eligible patients.
The aim of this study was to describe attitudes, beliefs and referral practice patterns, lung cancer screening knowledge, and concordance with lung cancer screening guidelines among nurse practitioners, physicians, and physician assistants in the United States.
A descriptive, cross-sectional study was performed using survey methodology with clinical vignettes to examine clinician factors and concordance with U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lung cancer screening guidelines.
Participants scored low on attitudes toward shared decision-making, high on the importance of shared decision-making in lung cancer screening, and low on barriers to lung cancer screening referral. In addition, midrange scores on empathy toward patients with smoking history were noted. Lung cancer screening knowledge was low regardless of clinician specialty; the most endorsed response when presented with a hypothetical patient was to refer for lung cancer screening using a chest X-ray.
Findings demonstrate that most clinicians are nonconcordant with U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, erroneously believing a chest X-ray is appropriate for lung cancer screening. Clinicians must follow evidence-based practice guidelines, highlighting the need for targeted continuing education about lung cancer screening for clinicians who treat screening-eligible patients.