For a long time chemotherapy has been the go-to answer for oncologists. The idea of it is to suppress the spread of cancerous cells through radiation and other drugs, which has a host of unfortunate side effects for the user.

Alanna Ketler published an article on Collective Evolution regarding a recent study examined whether the tradeoff was really worth it. In looking at patients that died within 30 days of beginning treatment, doctors found that in many of those cases the apparent cause of death was related to complications caused by the chemo, and not the cancer itself.

Using chemo and radiation as treatment methods is already playing the odds that the patient’s body can withstand them long enough to put the cancer into remission. The article highlights how doctors are now questioning whether that’s the most appropriate gamble to make, given that there are so many cases where the chemo shortened the user’s lifespan significantly.

Chemo an unnecessary risk for some cancer patients?

The nature of chemo means there is a lot of cellular destruction. Some of that is useful because it includes cancerous cells, but it also takes healthy cells with it. In the cases studied, there often weren’t enough healthy cells to sustain the treatment.

Ketler’s article references Dr. David Cameron, who states:

The concern is that with some of the patients dying within 30 days of being given chemo probably shouldn’t have been given the chemo. But how many? There is no easy way to answer that, but perhaps looking at those places/hospitals where the death rate was higher might help. Furthermore, if we give less chemo then some patients will die because they didn’t get enough chemo. It’s a fine balance and the more data we have the better we can be at making sure we get the balance right. “

These seem to be the right questions to ask, and it’s good to see that doctors are now exercising a bit more caution regarding whom they recommend chemotherapy. Nothing in science is a magical catch-all, and not that doctors ever claimed chemo was, but it’s significant to recognize its apparent limitations.

Perhaps this will allow medical practitioners to focus harder on alternative treatments that to this point have not received much publicity.

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