When most people are hit with a cancer diagnosis, they’d be forgiven for wanting doctors to throw everything at it — no matter how grueling the treatment. 

But a growing number of studies show not only can this approach make you sicker, it might actually shorten your life.

Three intriguing papers presented at the world’s most influential cancer conference last month suggested that less aggressive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery actually helped people with cancer feel healthier for longer. 

For those with some types of the disease, gentler treatments led to a longer life, too. 

A series of intriguing studies have found that patients with ovarian, blood and esophageal cancer do better with less aggressive treatment - with some even living longer

A series of intriguing studies have found that patients with ovarian, blood and esophageal cancer do better with less aggressive treatment - with some even living longer

A series of intriguing studies have found that patients with ovarian, blood and esophageal cancer do better with less aggressive treatment – with some even living longer

Cancer treatments, such as chemo drugs that destroy the immune system and radiation that can damage surrounding tissue, can lead to serious complications.  

What’s more, highly invasive surgeries to remove body parts can lead to infections and blood loss. 

Experts suggest that minimizing treatment can reduce the risk of potentially fatal side effects and complications. It also means patients are well enough to embark on healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise, which is also important for surviving cancer. 

The three studies by experts from France, Germany and the US, referred specifically to esophageal and ovarian cancer, as well as the blood cancer lymphoma, the Associated Press reported.

The first study, which investigated 438 esophageal cancer patients, found those treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy fared worse than those who underwent  just surgery and chemo. 

The graph, from a Stanford University study, shows the increase in women undergoing lumpectomies, rather than masectomies, over the last 40 years.

The graph, from a Stanford University study, shows the increase in women undergoing lumpectomies, rather than masectomies, over the last 40 years.

The graph, from a Stanford University study, shows the increase in women undergoing lumpectomies, rather than masectomies, over the last 40 years.

After three years, 57 percent of the patients given the gentler treatment were alive compared to 51 percent of those on the aggressive regimen, the German Research Foundation found. 

The second analysis, involving 379 patients with ovarian cancer, found preserving healthy lymph nodes resulted in fewer complications compared to those who’d had the glands removed to be sure all remaining cancer cells were destroyed.

The third paper compared two chemotherapy courses for 1,482 patients with the blood cancer Hodgkin lymphoma, and was performed by Takeda Oncology in nine European countries. 

It found that 94 percent of people with the less aggressive treatment went into remission after four years, compared to 91 percent of people with the harsher treatment. 

This is a modern approach to treatment adopted by an increasing number of  doctors around the world.

Breast cancer, for example, is now often treated, in the first instance, by removing the cancerous lump and surrounding tissue — as opposed to the entire breast. 

The graphs show that lung cancer patients given chemotherapy before surgery may be no more likely to survive long term, compared to those given the potent drugs

The graphs show that lung cancer patients given chemotherapy before surgery may be no more likely to survive long term, compared to those given the potent drugs

The graphs show that lung cancer patients given chemotherapy before surgery may be no more likely to survive long term, compared to those given the potent drugs

series of studies conducted over the past decade have found patients who had part of their breast removed lived just as long as patients who had a masectomy. 

Further, those who underwent a mastectomy were more likely to suffer infections, develop chronic pain and lose a dangerous amount of blood than people who got just got their tumors excised, Dr Christine Pestana a breast surgical oncology fellow said in 2022. 

Studies of colorectal cancer patients have found that three months of chemotherapy resulted in the same prognosis as those who underwent six months of chemotherapy. 

And data from this year, submitted to the journal Annals of Thoracic Surgery, showed that patients with the most common form of lung cancer live longer, on average, if they don’t undergo chemotherapy before an operation to remove tumors — compared to those who do.

‘In this case, less clearly is more,’ Dr David Ilson, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, wrote in 2018. 

Experts say that most studies show a minimal difference in lifespan between the approaches — but big increases in quality of life with less aggressive treatment. 

Switching to a less is more approach with all cancers could be a ‘game-changer’, according to Dr James Gulley, the co-director of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research.

 However, he added more research is needed to  identify the best candidates for this approach and how best to follow patients after they stop treatment.

Source: Mail Online

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