Palliative Radiotherapy Is Often Not Beneficial

End-stage cancer patients often treated with little or no benefit
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients with end-stage cancer receiving palliative radiation therapy do not benefit from it, even though they spend most of their remaining life undergoing treatments, according to research published online April 12 in Cancer.

Stephan Gripp, M.D., of University Hospital Dusseldorf in Germany, and colleagues studied 33 end-stage cancer patients -- of 216 referred for palliative radiotherapy -- who died within 30 days of referral. The researchers obtained symptoms, Karnofsky Performance Status, laboratory tests, and survival estimates.

The researchers found that the median survival duration was 15 days; from 85 survival estimates, only 16 percent were correct, but 21 percent were estimated to live more than six months. Radiotherapy was given to 91 percent of the patients, half of whom spent more than 60 percent of their remaining life on therapy. Radiotherapy was completed in only 58 percent of patients. In 52 percent of patients, progressive complaints were noted, and palliation was noted in 26 percent.

"Our study illuminates the current limits of our ability to predict death even when it is very close and to provide effective survival-time-adapted palliation. Many of our patients were treated with little or no benefit," the authors write.

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