Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Many with Terminal Cancer Still Getting Routine Screens

Advanced cancer patients should not be put through futile testing at end of life, experts say

Excerpts from a Health Day news item

TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) — Many patients with incurable cancer are still being screened for common cancers, although these tests are unlikely to provide any benefit, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City have found.

Specifically, many patients diagnosed with advanced lung, colorectal, pancreatic, gastroesophageal or breast cancer are still undergoing the ordeal of routine breast, prostate and colon cancer screening, said the researchers. Not only might these patients suffer from invasive procedures like colonoscopies near the end of life, the researchers said, but they face the unnecessary risk of additional tests, biopsies and psychological distress resulting from the detection of new malignancies.

“For patients living with advanced cancer, cancer screening should not be a routine procedure,” said lead researcher Dr. Camelia S. Sima, an assistant attending biostatistician.

[snip]

The report is published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The article is freely available at http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/304/14/1584

[snip]

There needs to be greater awareness that cancer screening when one is near the end of life is unlikely to provide a benefit, Sima pointed out.

“Screening guidelines could be reassessed to address the appropriateness of screening for patients whose very limited life expectancy due to advanced cancer negates any potential benefit that may be derived,” Sima said.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said that “we can do a lot of good with screening, but we have to recognize that there comes a time when it’s simply not the right thing to do.”

Lichtenfeld suggested that patients should discuss the appropriateness of a screening test with their doctor. “Putting people at the end of life through screening is not appropriate for the person, and from a societal viewpoint, it’s not a good use of our limited resources,” he said.

“Why would this happen in the first place?” Lichtenfeld asked. “It flies in the face of compassion; it flies in the face of common sense.”

 

 

October 14, 2010 - Posted by | Health News Items | , ,

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