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IOM Cancer Report Highlights Harmful Care

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 12, 2013

Doctors and hospitals "are doing a lot of things based on what we learned 20 or 30 years ago," says Patricia Ganz, MD, chair of the Institute of Medicine's cancer report committee and an oncologist at UCLA School of Medicine & Public Health.

An awful lot of oncology testing and treatment is futile, helter-skelter, wrong, and harmful, with costs spiraling patients into bankruptcy even as they produce outcomes the same as if no treatments were ever delivered.

That's the sense one gets from reading the Institute of Medicine's hefty new report on cancer care and talking with the authors, who seem like they're frustrated, angry, and a bit shell-shocked at all the work that will be required to change the system. A few examples:

  • Because chemotherapy drugs are too often tested in healthier populations than those who get the disease, they more frequently than expected produce intolerable side-effects, prompting suffering patients to say they'd rather die than endure more toxic misery.
  • Treatments are too frequently delivered by providers who aren't properly trained to perform specific surgeries, deliver chemotherapy correctly, or who don't introduce palliative care soon enough.
  • Different doctors treating multiple comorbidities in the same patients never talk with each other, and aren't honest with their patients about realistic outcomes.

See Also: IOM: Cancer Care System in Crisis


What a mess. For 14 million current cancer survivors, and the 1.6 million diagnosed with new disease each year.

Doctors and hospitals "are doing a lot of things based on what we learned 20 or 30 years ago," says Patricia Ganz, MD, chair of the IOM's cancer report committee and an oncologist at UCLA School of Medicine & Public Health.

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