Terminal cancer patients should get best and worst survival time-frames ‘because doctors are wrong 80% of the time’Ivy Madziva
Terminal cancer patients should get best and worst survival time-frames ‘because doctors are wrong 80% of the time’
- Australian researchers say average survival times don’t give patients hope
- Claim giving them best and worst-case scenarios is more accurate and useful
- Surveyed hundreds of patients, majority of who preferred the new approach
Doctors who give patients with incurable breast cancer a survival prediction are wrong almost 80 per cent of the time, research shows.
Leading GPs are calling for sufferers to be given best and worst-case time frames to paint a more accurate picture of their future.
The majority of patients given a deadly diagnosis want to know how long they have left to live, according to Dr Belinda Kiely, an oncologist at the University of Sydney.
This is usually so they know whether they should stop working or sell their home, or if they can attend a loved one’s wedding, she claims.
But the GP said the average life expectancy they are given is only accurate 20 to 30 per cent of the time.
Doctors in the UK and US, similar to Australia, use their experience to predict how long patients will survive. There isn’t one set model.
They take into consideration patient age, physical condition and how aggressive their cancer is before cross-referencing it with average survival times and adjusting.
The problem with average survival times is that there is a 50 per cent chance the patient outlives this, according to Dr Kiely.
Speaking at the Advanced Breast Cancer Fifth International Consensus Conference in Lisbon, she said: ‘Every week in my clinic, I meet women of all ages with advanced breast cancer.
‘They frequently ask, “How long have I got?” They have very practical concerns and questions that they want help with.
‘For example, they might want to know whether they should cancel a planned holiday, whether they will be able to attend their daughter’s wedding, or whether they should stop working or sell their house.
‘However, oncologists are sometimes unsure about how to help. They may worry… whether it’s possible to give accurate information and how best to talk about this without destroying hope.’
Dr Kiely’s research has shown that it is better to provide estimates for the best-case, worst-case and typical survival times. She said this was more accurate and helpful to patients.
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