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Education And Debate

Controversies in Management: Chemotherapy for solid tumours

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 28 January 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:246
  1. G M Mead, consultant in medical oncologya
  1. a Department of Medical Oncology, Royal Southampton SO9 4PE

    Routine treatment not yet justified

    Most patients with advanced or metastatic cancer will at some point be considered for chemotherapy or, occasionally, biological therapy—for example, interferon. These treatments are of limited specificity and commonly result in short term toxicity; they may also be expensive. If cure or increased survival is a realistic possibility these considerations are important but do not alter the treatment approach. However, most cancers are incurable once metastatic and often respond poorly to chemotherapy, which can result in side effects, inconvenience, and financial costs without improvements in symptoms or survival. In practice, partly because of the limited resources available in Britain, chemotherapy is often not discussed with, much less given to, many such patients. Increasingly, however, patients demand access to all available options, and the issue then is should treatment be considered, and if so with single or multiple drugs (with of course variable toxicity and cost) given intensively or non-intensively? Common examples of these diseases include metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, colorectal and upper gastrointestinal cancer, and renal cell cancer. The table shows some of the treatments used.

    Though no systematic reviews have …

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