Doctors Take Action to Right Size Cancer Care

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Updated: Thu, 19 Sep 2013 04:36:47 EST

   Obesity and cancer can be a deadly combination. Statistics have shown the obese are less likely to survive.

Breast cancer survivor Tracy Smith says, "You hear chemo, and you don't know what's going to happen."

But now doctors may know one reason why obese cancer patients die at a higher rate than thinner ones.

There's a surprising inequality in the care they receive.

Dr. Gary Lyman says, "A substantial proportion of patients receiving chemotherapy who are overweight or obese are under-dosed, under-treated."

Studies suggest as many as 40 percent of obese patients get less than 85 percent of the full chemo dose.

Doctors often measure medication based on ideal, not actual, body weight - or cap the dose fearing heavy patients can't handle it.

But other studies have found...

Dr. Lyman says, "If you dose obese patients based on their actual body weight, they have no more side effects, in some studies, actually, less side effects, than healthy-weight patients."

The research prompted the American Society of Clinical Oncology to adopt guidelines for weight-based chemo dosing for the obese.

But not all doctors are aware of the changes. Luckily, those at Duke University were when treating Tracy Smith, an obese breast cancer survivor.

Smith says, "I’m sure they gave me the right amount for my body weight."

She says cancer patients should ask questions if they're concerned.

Smith says, "There are no stupid questions, especially when it comes to your health."

And there may no longer be a one-size-fits-all approach to chemo.

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