Chemotherapy warning as hundreds die from cancer-fighting drugs
Patients should be warned about the dangers of chemotherapy after research showed that cancer drugs are killing up to 50 per cent of patients in some hospitals. For the first time researchers looked at the numbers of cancer patients who died within 30 days of starting chemotherapy.
The study by Public Health England and Cancer Research UK found that across England around 8.4 per cent of patients with lung cancer, and 2.4 per cent of breast cancer patients died within a month.
But in some hospitals the figure was far higher. In Milton Keynes the death rate for lung cancer treatment was 50.9 per cent, although it was based on a very small number of patients.
At Lancashire Teaching Hospitals the 30 day mortality rate was 28 per cent for palliative chemotherapy for lung cancer, which is given when a cure is not expected and treatment given to alleviate symptoms.
Deaths of lung cancer patients from chemotherapy were also far higher than the national average in Blackpool, Coventry, Derby, South Tyneside and Surrey and Sussex, according to the research.
Similarly, around one in five people who underwent palliative care for breast cancer at Cambridge University Hospitals died from their treatment.
Public Health England (PHE), said it had contacted the hospitals concerned to ask them to review practices.
Dr Jem Rashbass, Cancer Lead for PHE, said: “Chemotherapy is a vital part of cancer treatment and is a large reason behind the improved survival rates over last four decades.
“However, it is powerful medication with significant side effects and often getting the balance right on which patients to treat aggressively can be hard.
“Those hospitals whose death rates are outside the expected range have had the findings shared with them and we have asked them to review their practice and data.”
The study looked at more than 23,000 women with breast cancer and nearly 10,000 men with 9634 non-small cell lung cancer who underwent chemotherapy in 2014. Of those treated 1,383 died within 30 days.