Chemotherapy Kills 27% of Sick Patients; Doctors Urged to Stop Killing People with Chemo
Doctors ‘rely on chemo too much’
Patient having chemotherapy
Some 80,000 patients undergo chemotherapy each year
Doctors are being urged to re-think their approach to giving chemotherapy during care at the end of life.
A review of 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of treatment found that in more than a quarter of cases it actually hastened or caused death.
The report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death said doctors should consider reducing doses or not using chemotherapy at all.
England’s cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards said he was “very concerned”.
The group of patients the independent group was looking at represents 2% of the 80,000 people who receive chemotherapy each year.
This report provides very disturbing information about the safety of treatment for incurable cancer
Professor Jane Maher, of Macmillan Cancer Support
They were all severely-ill patients for which the chemotherapy was mostly being used to manage their condition rather than in an attempt to cure the cancer.
After examining case notes, the group said that 35% of patients received good care.
But it found that in 27% of cases it hastened or caused death – the toxic nature of the treatment can lead to a range of problems, the most serious of which is an infection called neutropenic sepsis.
Report co-author Dr Diana Mort said doctors should be more “cautious in prescribing chemotherapy for very sick patients”.
And she added: “The process of consent may require more than one discussion.
“Patients must be made aware of the risks and side-effect of chemotherapy as well as the potential benefits.”
The report also criticised the facilities made available to patients with nearly half being admitted to general medicine wards during the last 30 days of life rather than a specialist cancer unit.
The authors recommended where hospitals did not have specialist units they should put in place transfer arrangements to centres that did.
Professor Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “This report provides very disturbing information about the safety of treatment for incurable cancer.
“It shows that doctors and nurses need to be much better at helping patients understand the pros and cons of such powerful treatments in the last year of life.”
Professor Richards said he was “very concerned”.
“I am asking all chemotherapy service providers to consider these reports urgently and to reassess their own services immediately against the measures we have set nationally.”
But Dr Peter Clark, of the Royal College of Physicians, said while lessons could be learnt it was important to remember that chemotherapy carried “substantial short and long-term benefit” for the majority who undergo the treatment.
Posts Tagged ‘BBC’
China sets limit on melamine use
Four infants have died and more than 6,000 became ill
China’s health ministry has issued official levels of melamine to be allowed in milk and food.
One part of melamine per million parts of infant formula was considered safe, it said.
For liquid milk, milk powder and food that contains more than 15% milk, it set a limit of 2.5 parts per million – the same already set in Hong Kong.
China is trying to end a scandal over contaminated milk that has killed four babies and sickened thousands more.
The industrial chemical melamine was added to raw milk across the country, contaminating milk products of many kinds, leading to bans of Chinese products around the world.
Dairy suppliers have been arrested, accused of adding the chemical to make diluted milk appear more rich in protein.
Other jurisdictions have set their own limits on melamine in foods, with the 2.5 parts per million limit a general standard.
Scientists have suggested that tiny amounts of melamine can leech from packaging or processing techniques into food products.
A Chinese health ministry official, Wang Xuening, acknowledged this could occur, but drew a clear distinction between that and deliberate tainting with melamine.
“For those who add melamine into food products, their legal responsibility will be investigated,” Mr Wang said.
“Melamine is not a food raw material, and it’s also not a food additive. We prohibit people adding it to food items,” he said.
Experts around the world have only recently begun setting limits on the amount of melamine allowable in foods.
This has given rise to some confusion. In Hong Kong, only two of half a dozen Cadbury products taken off the shelves were later found to have dangerous amounts of melamine.
In Taiwan, where the government asked for Nestle products to be withdrawn, the Swiss-based company replied robustly, criticising Taiwan’s limit of melamine as markedly lower than in most other places, well below a general safety standard.
Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which makes products appear to have a higher protein count.
Health experts say that ingesting small amounts does no harm, but sustained use can cause kidney stones and renal failure, especially among the young.
From BBC News
Breast feeding all the way. Very sorry for all those families who lost their young ones, or whose young ones are ill because of the tainted milk.