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When it comes to treating cancer and other serious illnesses, early detection is key. However, there is debate over when it is prudent to administer cancer screening tests and who should receive them, since not everyone will be able to pursue a full spectrum of treatment. Some experts postulate that discovering cancer in certain patients can cause more harm than help, and recent research published in the British Medical Journal supports that end.
According to researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, giving a breast cancer screening test to some patients with less than 10 years of life expectancy remaining can produce more negative than positive outcomes. Scientists looked at a number of studies of previous breast cancer assessments that took place between 1986 and 2008, including more than 150,000 people over the age of 50 with up to 20-year follow up windows on each case. They discovered that, in those with more than five years of expected life left, the long-term benefits of treatment could produce better quality of life in the future. For those with less than that allotted time predicted remaining, the strain of treatment was more detrimental to ongoing life and enjoyment than had they not been diagnosed and administered treatment for the issue.
Making better personal care strategies
The study authors didn't recommend denying tests to patients who requested them in these cases. However, requiring a screening in some cases may not be wise. Doctors should not deny access to screening, but they should be more prudent about who they enforce it with, the study concluded.
For those patients with the ability to outlive the negative side effects these treatments can provide, other research has shown that doctors should be cautious of what medications they offer these survivors for ongoing maintenance.
The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and the Austrian Breast and Colorectal Cancer Study Group revealed that a certain drug commonly prescribed for ongoing breast cancer management, Tamoxifen, was not useful in some patients due to a genetic condition. The researchers showed that certain patients' livers were metabolizing the medicine without absorbing any of the active agents, making it useless in terms of palliative care. The drug was linked to overall treatment failure in some instances, the scientists concluded.
Doctors should follow up regularly with blood testsand other methods to track progress and make alterations to care plans for individuals. Providing the right options for wellness and ongoing quality of life can be difficult, but the right treatment schedules and medications can be beneficial.
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