Monday, July 11, 2016

“Useless treatments common in young, terminal cancer patients”

That’s the headline of a story I’ve just reread that was written by Dennis Thompson of HealthDay -
This news makes me wince uncomfortably.

Thompson reports that “An analysis of insurance records found that cancer patients often undergo chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery in their final 30 days.”
I’m trying to better understand this and having trouble. Does this mean that concerned doctors are trying to save patients right up to the last second? Or does it mean that doctors are giving patients medicine that cannot help them, but makes $$$ for ______ (I’ll let you fill in the blink).

Thompson further reports that “In 2012, ASCO issued a set of guidelines for physicians that recommended against using aggressive measures in patients with advanced cancer who are unlikely to benefit from such treatment. Instead, doctors should focus on easing the patient's pain and symptoms, the guidelines say.

He also quotes Dr. Andrew Epstein, an ASCO expert in palliative care, saying, "Much more often than not, these types of care at the end of life are not helpful, and they are emotionally and physically harmful for patients, and emotionally harmful to the patients' loved ones." Epstein is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.”

To see if these guidelines are being followed, researcher Dr. Ronald Chen -  associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - and his colleagues reviewed claims data for more than 28,000 terminally ill cancer patients younger than 65 who died between 2007 and 2014. The patients lived across 14 different states and had been diagnosed with advanced lung, colon, breast, pancreatic or prostate cancer.

Guess what?

The investigators found that between 71 percent and 76 percent of patients received some form of aggressive care at the end of life, depending on their type of cancer.

Somehow this just makes me sad. Not only are these victims dying, it seems like they aren’t allowed to go peacefully.

I could be wrong. Maybe all of these victims want to fight to their last breadth no matter what the odds are.

Read the article and decide for yourself.

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