Saturday, March 5, 2022

Many physicians now favoring multiple options other than chemotherapy to treat cancers

A growing number of cancer patients, especially those with breast and lung malignancies, are being spared chemo in favor of other options.

At least that's the conclusion of The New York Times.

According to a recent story by the paper's most prolific cancer specialist, Gina Kolata, because "there is a growing willingness among oncologists to scale back unhelpful treatments" and because genetic tests "can now reveal whether chemotherapy would be beneficial," there are many better options for patients than chemo.

Among them, the article notes, are "an ever-expanding array of drugs, including estrogen blockers and drugs that destroy cancers by attacking specific proteins on the surface of tumors."

These alternative treatments, the piece notes, are increasingly being used for breast and lung cancers, and many others as well, sparing "thousands each year from the dread chemotherapy treatment, with its accompanying hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and potential to cause permanent damage to the heart and to nerves in the hands and feet."

And even when chemo is indicated, Kolata's story says, "doctors often give fewer drugs for less time."

Dr. Lisa Carey
"It's a totally different world," the article quotes Dr. Lisa Carey, breast cancer specialist at the University of North Carolina.

That view is supported by Dr. Robert Vonderheide, lung cancer specialist who heads the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, who says that docs used to discuss whether to give patients two different types of chemo or three but now "are walking in to see even patients with advanced lung cancer and telling them, 'No chemo.'"

Kolata's piece calls the change "a quiet revolution" that has stemmed from "a slow chipping away" at the number of people for whom chemo — which for decades was considered "the rule, the dogma" — is recommended.

More information on new therapies can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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