Monster in the closet

I’d like to think they’re just selling false hope because they can’t face telling it like it is.

Imagine having to look into the eyes of elderly cancer patients day after day and tell them there’s nothing you can do.

So maybe…just maybe…oncologists are offering treatments they know are ineffective to give some hope and to make their jobs one drop easier.

It might be wrong but at least I could understand it.

But sadly, that’s probably not the reason that these poor, desperate patients are being subjected to needless — and worthless — chemo treatments.

No, it’s much more likely that it’s all about the billing…and it’s a national disgrace.

Sometimes fatal

University of Chicago researchers recently examined medical records for more than 1,000 patients with metastatic colon cancer.

They found that about one in every eight patients (approximately 130 patients total) received chemotherapy that was either shown to be ineffective, or its use was not supported by evidence, or there was no compelling rationale for the use of the drug.

One of those drugs — Avastin — can cost as much as $90,000 per year.

A few months ago I told you about potential side effects linked to Avastin. Here’s just a partial list…

  • Gastrointestinal perforation — sometimes fatal
  • Incomplete wound healing — sometimes fatal
  • Serious bleeding in the stomach or brain — sometimes fatal
  • Kidney problems — sometimes fatal
  • Vision disturbances — including blindness

So I have to ask: What kind of a monster do you have to be to administer a drug like that to a patient who you know will receive scant or possibly no benefit at all?

I guess you have to be a financially desperate monster. But that’s obviously no excuse. It’s robbery, pure and simple. The UC team reports that the patients in the study who were put at significant and unnecessary risk paid out more than $2 million for the cancer drugs.

It’s beyond despicable!

What’s worse, this study confirms a long, ongoing problem…

In 2003, an oncologist examined the medical records of almost 8,000 cancer patients. He found that in cases where chemo was given in the final six months of life, ONE-THIRD of the patients had cancers that are known to be unresponsive to chemotherapy.

In a 2008 review of about 600 cases in which cancer patients died within 30 days of receiving chemo, 40 percent experienced "significant poisoning" from their treatment, and about one-in-four deaths were accelerated or actually caused by the treatment.

And in 2005, Medicare reduced payments to oncologists who administer outpatient chemo. In response, some doctors simply began treating more patients with chemo and began using more expensive drugs to offset their lost revenue.

A late-stage cancer is a desperate time for a patient. He and his family are vulnerable and scared, and they’re likely to cling to any bit of hope. But hard as it is, that’s when they have to be most diligent in challenging doctors with tough questions through every step of therapy.

And while saying "no," can feel like giving up, it may end up saving you a lot of money and, more importantly, a lot of pain and frustration.

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Jenny Thompson

Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.

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  1. Digit says

    Hopefully, my lifestyle and diet choices will keep me safe from cancer and the like, however my family knows that my choice in that situation would be to forgo any chemo type treatment.
    I would try alternative treatments including (and probably first choice) H2O2 therapy, and if that didn’t work then die like I would have to one day any how. Everyone has to die sometime, and I would rather leave something for my family than give it to a doctor to pay his monthly bills.
    My choice…

  2. Lori says

    I had a client in his early 40’s that was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and put into a chemo program at a local well known university hospital. He never improved, and the cancer spread to his liver but they kept on with the chemo even as multiple tumors showed up in his liver. When he died, his cause of death was “officially” liver failure, not cancer. So not only was he bombarded with toxic chemicals that were useless, but he’s one less statistic when counting cancer deaths. Disgraceful indeed.

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