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Andre Braugher, known for his roles in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” died from lung cancer this week. The Emmy winner was 61. According to his publicist, Braugher’s death comes just months after his initial diagnosis.

While the exact details of Braugher’s cancer are not publicly known, according to Dr. Lary Robinson, a thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center, it’s unusual for patients with lung cancer to pass so quickly.

Dr. Lary Robinson, Thoracic Oncology Department

Dr. Lary Robinson, Thoracic Oncology Department

“Some very aggressive cancers such as small cell carcinoma, even despite treatment, will occasionally progress rapidly,” Robinson said. “Sudden pulmonary embolism is one factor as patients with lung cancer tend to develop blood clots. Other patients with obstructive cancer can develop pneumonia and succumb to respiratory failure.”

Robinson says another reason patients with lung cancer pass suddenly is extensive brain metastasis with rapidly growing tumors that can cause hemorrhaging into the brain.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., accounting for about 1 in 5 of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

It’s the second most common cancer in men and women in the United States (not counting skin cancer).

More than 238,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. About 127,000 will die from the disease.

According to the American Lung Association, Black patients with lung cancer are 15% less likely to be diagnosed early, 19% less likely to receive surgical treatment, 11% more likely to not receive any treatment, and 16% less likely to survive five years compared to white individuals.

Robinson believes there are multiple factors that lead to these disparities.

  • They may have reduced health care access and as a consequence, are seen in a medical facility only after they have quite severe or advanced symptoms.
  • It has been suggested that the Black community may be somewhat more suspicious of the health care industry because of past inequities and may avoid seeing a doctor until late in the course of disease.
  • Often, older Black people may have a disproportionate increase in the number of other significant comorbidities such as heart, lung and kidney disease, which makes them worse candidates for surgery or nonsurgical treatment.
  • Another possibility may be that certain lifestyle choices in their community such as a diet high in saturated fat and refined sugar plus a relative lack of exercise may predispose them to a higher incidence of chronic inflammation, which is a known negative factor for cancer and its treatment, as well as other diseases.