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Are Some Cancer Patients Undergoing Needless, Risky Treatments?

Researchers have come a long way in understanding and treating many different types of cancer. Despite the extensive development in knowledge, there is still a lot more to learn. A cancer diagnosis is something that people do not take lightly, neither are the treatment plans that often follow this diagnosis.These plans often involve very aggressive treatment measures, including chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery. Although these medical procedures help treat the cancer, there are risks and consequences associated with each. A recent study recently published online in JAMA Otolaryngology suggests that some cancers are being over diagnosed and thus, over treated.The study was co-authored by Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. His study focused on thyroid cancer, a diagnosis that has more than doubled since 1975, nearly even tripling in number.Thyroid cancer can involve tumor growths on the gland that releases hormones that help control the body’s metabolism. The gland is located in the neck, and most treatment plans involve surgically removing the entire gland. But is this course of action that not only involves the risks associated with surgery but also requires daily hormone pills for the rest of the patient’s life, necessary?Researchers say maybe not. Welch warned that a diagnosis that includes the word cancer doesn’t necessarily mean that treatment is necessary. “It’s a challenging rethinking,” he said of the assumption that aggressive treatment for every cancer is essential. There a some cancers, like ones affecting the thyroid, that are small and slow growing enough that they might not cause harm.Advancements in detection methods have become increasingly more effective, say some experts. This likely plays a role in the increase in the number of those being diagnosed. Dr. Brian Burkey said that part of the problem is that it isn’t easy to pinpoint which cancers will become aggressive.What is the acceptable practice in Pennsylvania? Can someone be put through unnecessary procedures as a part of an “over-diagnosis epidemic”? Those that believe that medical mistakes may have been made in the diagnosis of their illness can turn to a Harrisburg medical malpractice attorney to determine if they may have a claim.Source: Pioneer Press, “Thyroid cancer cases have soared,” Lindsey Tanner, Feb. 20, 2014

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