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Study Reports Obese Patients Get Lower Chemo Doses

Update Date: Sep 19, 2013 03:48 PM EDT

When people get medical treatment, the level of care should ideally be the same for everyone regardless of other factors. However, even though medical care equality should be a given, a new study is reporting that some patients are not receiving the right level of care. In this study, the researchers found that obese patients are less likely to survive cancer due to the fact that they receive lower dosages of chemotherapy.

When it comes to administering chemotherapy treatment, doctors do not base their dosages on the size of the patient even after studies suggested that they should. Since doctors are not providing obese patients with higher dosages out of fear that their bodies cannot handle it, obese cancer patients might actually be receiving lower care. The amount of chemotherapy drugs they get into their system could be as much as 85 percent lower than the ideal dose for around 40 percent of obese cancer patients.

Due to the fact that obese cancer patients might be dying cause of these small dosages, the American Society of Clinical Oncology is hoping to change the guidelines. The society wants to adjust the chemotherapy dosages based on weight. If the changes go into effect, that would mean that chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat all kinds of cancer would need to be administered based on patient weight.

"There's little doubt that some degree of undertreatment is contributing to the higher mortality and recurrence rates in obese patients," said Gary Lyman, a Duke University oncologist according to USA Today. Lyman headed the panel that outlined the advice on changing chemotherapy dosages to be based on weight.

Despite the call for increased dosages, some doctors are still worried about what a larger dosage could do to the body and other health conditions. They reasoned that even though an obese patient might be three times larger than a normal weight patient, the heart and other organs are not actually any larger.

The authors of the new report also acknowledged that concern. However, Lyman argued that several studies have found that obese people are less likely to get dangerous, low blood counts from chemotherapy and can clear the drugs out of their systems a lot faster than skinner patients. Lyman stated that doctors could start with a full dose based on weight and lower it if complications arise. The authors remind patients that open communication with one's doctor is vital. Some doctors might have a very good explanation for why full dosage based on weight is not the right option.

"Ask your doctor how they plan to treat you and whether you're going to get the full dosing. The doctor may have a good reason not to, but you should have that discussion," commented Lyman.

The report can be found here.

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