In the last 20 years, we’ve seen great advances in both cancer screening and diagnoses, which has led to more aggressive treatments for cancer patients.
But have we actually made any real progress in the War on Cancer?
Recently, the medical community has started questioning these aggressive treatments and their effectiveness in our ongoing battle with this devastating disease. Why? They’ve found that cancer survival rates have increased, but very minimally, and for some cancers, not at all.
Read the article from the National Post here.
Although we’ve made progress, the facts are:
- Overall survival rates are at 60%, in the 1970s it was at 50%, only a 10% improvement in 40 years.
- Experts are estimating new diagnoses will increase 40% by 2030.
- Fewer than half new cancer drugs available today prolong survival by more than a few months compared to older drugs.
So we must ask ourselves if it’s time to rethink this War on Cancer.
Last year, the World Health Agency said that they believe 1/2 million people in a dozen countries including Canada have been overdiagnosed with thyroid cancer in the last ten years! To date, they’ve not found a way to undeniably distinguish between a low-risk lesion from one that will grow and spread so they’ve been treating everything they find. As soon as patients learn that they have a tumour, they’re anxious to have it removed immediately and undergo treatment. It’s difficult to convince patients that doing more is not necessarily helpful, and could be harmful: Chemo and radiation treatments can damage the heart, brain, and lungs.
When doctors began detecting ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), they thought aggressive treatment would prevent invasive cancer, but it hasn’t; breast cancer rates have not fallen. Some doctors are now suggesting that women be given time to weigh their options, instead of treating immediately.
Doctors are now recommending active surveillance instead of aggressive surgery and treatment. A few years ago, Dr. Klotz, a Toronto oncologist, and order of Canada recipient advanced this approach with prostate and today, this is the normal course of treatment used in low-risk cases.
This is a highly emotional and sensitive topic, but one that’s worth addressing. There’s not enough conclusive evidence as the medical community continues to monitor and study the situation but we have enough information to cause concern about our current approach.
What do you think?
Do you believe aggressive treatment is the only answer, or would you consider active monitoring if you or a loved one was diagnosed with cancer?
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Aviva Abraham is a group benefits and insurance advisor at Creative Planning. She has been providing healthcare solutions for self-employed and business owners since 2010.