Research Is Aiming At Curbing Overtreatment

· TGI - Cancer
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English: pink ribbon

Research Is Aiming At Curbing Overtreatment

…to minimize the risk of raising new cancers

The new studies suggest that the current big problem in cancer care is overtreatment and the current trend of treatments hurting the people in many ways. Treatments help many women beat the disease, but giving too many or ones that aren’t really needed causes unnecessary expense, trauma and lifelong side effects, such as arm swelling and heart troubles. Radiation can even raise the risk of new cancers.

Breast cancer is already widely spread in 5 to 20 percent of newly diagnosed patients, and at that point is usually incurable. The main treatment is chemotherapy or hormone treatments that attack cancer throughout the body. Sometimes doctors also remove the breast tumor in hope of prolonging survival, but this has not been put to a hard test.

Tens of thousands of women each year might be able to skip at least some of the grueling treatments for breast cancer — which can include surgery, heavy chemo and radiation — without greatly harming their odds of survival. Several studies presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, an international conference on the disease, identify groups of patients who might be able to safely forgo certain treatments.

  • The trend is “less and less therapy” for certain cancer types, said one conference leader, Dr. C. Kent Osborne of Baylor College of Medicine.
  • “There’s a huge amount of bias” among doctors and patients about what is best”, says Dr. Seema Khan of Northwestern University in Chicago.
  • Medicines are enough – Dr. Rajendra Badwe, director of the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India.
  • Surgery is not helping much, it is case dependent – Dr. Atilla Soran of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
  • Many doctors jumped on earlier, less rigorous studies and advised women to have surgery – Dr. Claudine Isaacs, a breast specialist at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • There’s a huge amount of bias” among doctors and patients about what is best – Dr. Seema Khan of Northwestern University in Chicago.
  • Cancer medicines have gotten so good at lowering the risk of a recurrence that doctors wonder whether the radiation is still needed.
  • 95 out of 100 radiation treatments are unnecessary treatments. Since radiation did not affect survival or the risk of cancer spreading, skipping it “is a reasonable option.”  – Dr. Ian Kunkler of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
  • Heavy-duty chemo may damage heart.
  • “Light chemo” is likely to become a new standard, only 6/406 treated had recurrence after three years – Dr. Eric Winer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

This cancer conference is sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research, Baylor and the UT Health Science Center.

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