For decades, cancer diagnoses have often meant one thing for patients: doctors and hospitals scrambling for the strongest, fastest-moving treatments to fight the disease. But as doctors learn more about cancer, they’re discovering that not all cases require aggressive therapies—and that less care can often mean better treatment outcomes and quality of life, The Washington Post reports.
At the root of the change is the growing recognition that not all cancers are the same. Some do need to be treated swiftly and with incredible force. But others can be treated with more tailored therapies or simply watched to ensure a patient’s long-term health. In fact, thanks to new tools and technologies, many cancer experts are recommending oncologists “de-escalate” and cut back on many toxic and expensive approaches that have long characterized cancer treatment and often do more harm than good.
For example, a clinical trial presented earlier this summer found that more than
“Our focus historically on the ‘war on cancer’ implied that more is better and decimation is desired,” said Justin Bekelman, MD, a radiation oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was interviewed for the report. Bekelman noted that the “fighting cancer patient” metaphor is falling out of favor, not only because it subliminally blames patients and doctors who “lose the fight” but also because it doesn’t take into consideration new biological insights and treatment innovations techniques that render bludgeoning cancer treatments obsolete. “Knowing when not to treat is great medicine,” he added.
But even the strongest proponents of treatment de-escalation point out that selecting the right patients for less intensive therapies is critical. Not all diagnoses can be treated with a less-is-more approach, and researchers are discovering that certain