Many Breast Cancer Patients Receive More Radiation Therapy Than Needed

“Many Breast Cancer Patients Receive More Radiation Therapy Than Needed,” NPR Shots.

A growing number of patients and doctors are concerned about overtreatment, which is rampant across the health care system. From duplicate blood tests to unnecessary knee replacements, millions of patients are being bombarded with screenings, scans and treatments that offer little or no benefit. Doctors estimated that 21 percent of medical care is unnecessary, according to a survey published in PLOS One. In fact, unnecessary medical services cost the health care system at least $210 billion a year, according to a 2009 report by the National Academy of Medicine.

Those procedures aren’t only expensive. Some clearly harm patients. Overzealous screening for cancers of the thyroid, prostate, breast and skin, for example, leads many older people to undergo treatments unlikely to extend their lives, but which can cause needless pain and suffering. “It’s just bad care,” said Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco, whose research has highlighted the risk of radiation from unnecessary CT scans and other imaging. Beyond wasted time and worry, these scans also expose women to unnecessary radiation, a known carcinogen.

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