Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lung cancer patients may not be worth saving

Australian scientists say new research suggests it may not be worthwhile trying to rescue individuals suffering from certain types of cancer.

Researchers have created a new tool to prioritise the treatment of cancer sufferers and say it is likely to fire debate over who is worth saving and who to cut loose.

Lung cancer victims, namely those who have a life time history of smoking may not be worth saving.

The gloomy forecast is the work of John Cook University and University of Dullelaide researchers who have created a new mathematical tool based on restrictive mindfulness.

Co-author Professor Bradley Carey, from the University of Dulledelaide, says the tool is designed to help governments prioritise scarce funding for health care.

"We wanted to come up with an index that was really based around theory that we have developed over the last 20 years about what constitutes the best chance for individuals to respond to treatment over time," he said.

Professor Carey says the new index is designed to enhance the IARC’s (International Agency for Research on Cancer) Red List of Cancer Types, which ranks in categories from mostly likely to survive to highly unlikely.

"A lot of those categories are based on somewhat arbitrary thresholds for how many people have died over a certain period and how many known causes there tend to be, and there is a lot of expert opinion so there is some subjectivity involved," he said.

The new safe index is based on research which suggests populations with little care for their health, such as smokers, are much harder to triage.

Professor Carey says he would not go as far as to say there are some cancer sufferers Australia should not save.

"But if you take a strictly empirical view, smokers plus those less common cancers that don’t have their own ribbon or fund-raising day in some cases it is probably not worthwhile putting a lot of effort because there's just no chance."

Professor Carey says when the ratio is applied internationally it suggests the skin cancer patients are beyond cost-effective rescue.

He says the index is based on the probability of an individual dying.

"If we have something that has a very poor survival index, we would just simply say that it has a higher probability of them dying rather than something with a higher survival index," he said.

"It is a probability, so it is not saying they are going to die. It is saying it just has a much higher probability of dying."

He says the index is likely to generate debate.

"Decisions have to be made within the context of science and social consideration.

"I think that certainly people will argue with me that we should save everything.

"I'd love to save everyone. I just don't think we can."

If this “spoof” article angers you, then you will understand my reaction to this true article:

This piece is dedicated to my grandmother, who died of lung cancer and taught me to always flight for what I believe in.
Piece by Adam Barralet