Overweight cancer sufferers are known to have a much higher mortality rate, which has long been attributed to a generally poorer state of overall health. However, reports have come to light suggesting that doctors are routinely and dangerously undertreating obese people with cancer and thus reducing their chances of survival.
Doctors face the accusation of administering smaller and less effective doses of chemotherapy to overweight patients by basing the dose on their weight, as opposed to their size. The reason is said to be the way in which doctors limit how much chemo they give to obese cancer sufferers due to the fear of negative effects on their already poor health, attributed to their excess weight.
It has however been made clear on numerous occasions that larger people are usually able to tolerate larger doses of chemo than those of a smaller side. As such, the apparent best interest of the doctors may have been yielding the polar opposite result.
According to the latest study carried out on the issue, cancer patients with weight problems are being given at least 15% lower doses of chemo than those classified as of a healthy size. The suspicion is us that this could have led to thousands of early and in some cases entirely preventable deaths as to short-change a patient may be a death sentence in its own right.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology has weighed into the debate and insisted that new guidelines be immediately followed when it comes to administering chemo based on size, rather than weight.
Duke University oncologist Gary Lyman spoke of his concerns.
“There’s little doubt that some degree of undertreatment is contributing to the higher mortality and recurrence rates in obese patients,” he warned.
Experts fear the problem could become even worse unless nipped in the bud right now, for the simple reason that obesity is hardly a rare condition in the US. In a country where one in three adults is considered obese and a massive 60% are overweight, it is simply unacceptable to risk short-changing thousands of cancer sufferers and robbing them of their chances of survival, the report argues.
In some instances when a person suffers from heart disease, diabetes or other conditions associated with obesity it is of course prudent to administer lower doses for the sake of their health. The problem however appears to have become the way in which all overweight individuals are being automatically labelled and unfit for full chemo doses, when in reality they could perhaps handle even more of the life-saving treatment than a person of a ‘healthier’ weight.