“Doctors call for end to five cancer tests, treatments”

Tom Emerick

Posted 4/6/12 on Cracking Health Costs

So reads the headline in a Reuters story on April 4, 2011.

Let’s linger on the notion that they are exposing procedures that are “harmful” yet “routinely prescribed.” Giving harmful care to cancer patients is not rare, but “routine”. The words immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, and venal come to mind.A private task force was led by Dr. Lowell Schnipper, a cancer physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The task force was organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  The goal was to “…to identify procedures that do not help patients live longer or better or that may even be harmful, yet are routinely prescribed.” [Italics mine.]

The net result was this:  “…the nation’s leading association of cancer physicians issued a list on Wednesday of five common tests and treatments that doctors should stop offering to cancer patients.”

An important point is this was not a government bureaucratic exercise, but rather private physicians working together to improve health care in America. Many kudos to them.  Interesting too is that cancer advocate organizations, which often have opposed efforts to curb wasteful and potentially harmful care,  are approving this initiative…even the American Cancer Society and the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

One recommendation was to stop giving chemotherapy to patients who can’t benefit from it. For decades we have spent billions upon billions for chemotherapy treatments that have no possibility of improving patients’ cancer…I mean no possibility…but with huge profits for oncologists of dubious ethics. What a breakthrough that oncologists themselves are putting light on such misuse of chemotherapy.

There will be a backslash in certain medical circles but they don’t have a scientific leg to stand on. This has the potential to be a major breakthrough in improving cancer care.

Benefit executives, send your cancer patients to clinics that follow evidence-based, not profit-based, oncology,. You owe it to your employees.

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