Tuesday, September 27, 2011

British doctors failing 500,000 cancer patients by not spotting medical problems caused by treatment

Doctors are failing cancer patients 'far too often' by not spotting other medical problems caused by their treatment, according to a leading expert on the disease.

Professor Jane Maher, the medical director of Macmillan Cancer Support, said she feared 500,000 people's symptoms for conditions including osteoporosis and heart disease are being missed by GPs.

She said that their lack of knowledge about the long-term side-effects of cancer drugs and a lack of communication with hospitals were to blame.

'GPs and oncologists are failing cancer patients far too often,' Prof Maher told The Guardian. 'By not sharing vital information and recording clearly on the patients' medical records they are putting a significant number of cancer patients at risk of having their work, health, relationships and home lives unnecessarily spoiled by long-term side-effects of their treatment.'

The National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI) estimates that up to a quarter of those diagnosed with cancer go on experience a consequence of their treatment which affects their health or quality of life.

Prof Maher added: 'Based on the NCSI work looking into consequences of cancer treatment, I fear that up to 500,000 people's symptoms are being missed by GPs.

'GPs need to recognise that people who have had cancer may have health problems related to their treatment, and GPs are the best people to pick these up. But that doesn't happen nearly enough at the moment.'

The medical expert said doctors needed to ensure that cancer survivors' medical records included more detail about their disease and type of treatment. 'At the moment GPs aren't recording whether someone has had chemotherapy or radiotherapy,' she said.

'That's partly because they don't get enough information from hospitals, but also because they don't realise why it's important for them to do that.'

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Government's national cancer director, said it was essential that GPs and oncologists worked together to ensure patients get the best possible care.

The fact that cancer survival rates are improving year on year with a growing number of long-term survivors made it more important, he added.

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said doctors needed help with the issue.

Admitting that GPs were generally unaware of the risks associated with specific treatments, she said: 'If Prof Maher and the NHS tell us exactly what cancer someone has had, and what treatment, and what the possible risks are of that, and in a way that's easy to understand, we will do things better.'


Drug that 'shrinks children's brain tumours by 50%' is launched as once-a-day pill

Good to hear that some "orphan" drugs are in fact getting through the system

A drug that can shrink brain tumours by up to 50 per cent in children with a rare disease has been launched in the UK. NHS doctors will be able to apply for funding from health trusts for Votubia (everolimus) for children with growing non-malignant brain tumours associated with a condition called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

The once-a-day pill offers an alternative to surgery and could provide a lifeline for up to 1,600 youngsters in the UK with the tumours.

The drug, which has been granted orphan drug status for rare diseases, has been shown to shrink subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (SEGA) tumours associated with TSC. TSC is a genetic disorder which leads to non-malignant tumours forming in organs, most commonly the brain and kidneys.

Brain tumours occur in up to 20 per cent of patients with TSC, causing physical and mental disability.

Chris Kingswood, head of research at the Tuberous Sclerosis Association, said: 'For a long time there has been a desperate need for a useful alternative licensed treatment to invasive brain surgery.

'Everolimus is the first licensed product we can offer patients to attack the cause of their debilitating condition; it works by blocking a protein that acts as an important regulator of tumour cell growth.

'The way it works in the signalling pathway can be simply likened to blocking a receiver so it cannot process signals from the aerial on an analogue radio, so that the signals can no longer transmit to drive in this case tumour cell growth.'

Dr Finbar O'Callaghan, consultant in paediatric neurology at the University of Bristol, said: 'SEGA is a serious complication in TSC, accounting for much of the increased mortality seen in this condition.

'Until now, brain surgery has been the only option for treatment and the availability of a pharmacological therapy is a major milestone and provides a treatment option in those cases where surgery is difficult or not possible.'


No comments: