Oncologists in some corporate hospitals are taking cancer patients for a ride by administering high-end radiation treatment or expensive chemotherapy to them when similar results can be achieved with standard therapy, leading cancer expert Dr. P. Vijay Anand Reddy said.
Speaking to The Hindu , he expressed anguish over the growing trend of commercialisation in oncology as in other medical fields. In the case of cancer, the entire family is shaken, and it is not as simple as providing treatment to an individual.
He said that there was every need to explain the cost-versus-benefit details to the patient and his/her family members before providing high-end treatment.
Citing examples, he said that a patient suffering from fourth stage lung cancer could be administered the same chemotherapy treatment at costs ranging from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 5 lakh per cycle. Each cycle will have to be provided once in every three weeks. “They (oncologists) prescribe as they like, and the patient is fooled,” he added.
On the radiation front, too, the costs range from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 4 lakh, depending on the machine used. While the standard treatment is the 3D conformal radiation therapy, the new advanced therapies include intensity-modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy and treatment through rotation of machine. “It doesn’t matter to the patient whether the treatment is for 10 minutes or two minutes. But, unfortunately, patients get carried away by claims,” he added.
Dr. Reddy said that only in 20 per cent cases, such as treating a brain tumour, the use of high-end technology might serve the purpose. But the reverse is happening, and almost 80 per cent of cancer patients are being subjected to needless expensive radiation treatment when similar results could be achieved with therapy costing around Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 75,000.
With the same chances of cure, the only advantage of using high-end technology is that side-effects are minimal.