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Saturday 17th March 2018

Doctors to rethink chemo use

12th November 2008

A rethink is being urged on the use of chemotherapy during care at the end of a patient’s life.


The move follows a review of 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of treatment.

Following the study, which found that in 27% of cases chemotherapy caused or hastened death, a report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death suggested that doctors should consider reducing doses or not using chemotherapy at all.

The study group amounted to 2% of the 80,000 people who receive chemotherapy each year in this country.

All patients involved were severely ill and the treatment they were receiving was being used to manage their condition rather than cure it.

More than a quarter suffered a range of problems, the most serious being the neutropenic sepsis infection.

Report co-author Dr Diana Mort urged doctors to be more cautious in prescribing chemotherapy and added: "Patients must be made aware of the risks and side-effect of chemotherapy as well as the potential benefits."

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."

England's cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards said that he was very concerned at the findings and he has asked chemotherapy services to consider the report as a matter of urgency.


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