May 9, 2019 – End of Life Cancer Treatment


Anchor lead: When is it time to stop treatment for cancer or simply not start it? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Many people with advanced cancer end up in treatment, whether that’s surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, a recent study found. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says he understands why some treatments may take place, but says we need to look carefully at the rest.

Nelson: The worrisome statistic isn’t so much that these treatments were undertaken- there may have been reasons to think they may have offered a palliative benefit – the worrisome thing is if you looked at treatment differences between centers of excellence, the National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers, and community cancer center programs, there was 48% less radiation therapy administered in the National Cancer Institute centers where there’s a high level of focused expertise, so it suggests that at least some of this was unnecessary and perhaps even inappropriate.  :32

Nelson notes that goals of care really need to be defined before any cancer treatment is begun, at all disease stages. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.