Lymphedema Home Treatment Improves Outcomes, Reduces Costs, Researchers Find

“Home therapy helps control symptoms and save on the costs of treating lymphedema, a painful, often debilitating side effect of life-saving cancer treatments, a new study has found.

“Patients with swelling caused by cancer-associated lymphedema can both reduce the severity of the disease and the overall cost of medical care by taking therapeutic steps at home, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“The study looked at the prevalence of lymphedema, a common side effect of cancer treatments, and found that the average annual cost of care for a patient with the condition decreased from $62,190 to $50,000 a year when the patient used pneumatic compression devices to treat the swelling.

” ‘Total health-care costs for these patients are very high, but can be profoundly reduced with treatment intervention, in this case a compression device,’ said Stanley Rockson, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford and senior author of the study, published online Dec. 3 in PLOS ONE. ‘This is clearly a compelling argument for increased coverage of similar home-care devices to reduce costs.’ “


Xalkori More Effective than Chemotherapy as Second-Line Treatment in ALK+ Lung Cancer

The ALK inhibitor crizotinib (Xalkori) has shown effectiveness in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have changes in the ALK gene that make the gene overactive (so-called ‘ALK-positive’ patients). A recent clinical trial compared Xalkori to chemotherapy as a second-line treatment in these patients. Over 300 patients with ALK-positive advanced NSCLC who had undergone one previous round of chemotherapy were treated either with Xalkori or one of the chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed (Alimta) or docetaxel (Taxotere). Tumors shrank in 65% of Xalkori-treated patients, compared to 20% of those receiving chemotherapy. The Xalkori-treated patients also went longer without their cancer worsening, experienced fewer symptoms, and reported higher quality of life.


Realizing the Full Benefits of Palliative Care

Evidence is mounting for the manifold benefits of palliative care – which is focused on alleviating symptoms – for cancer patients. Studies have shown that cancer patients who receive palliative care experience higher quality of life, less depression, and are better functioning. They also live longer, even though fewer of them undergo aggressive end-of-life care. Thanks to fewer hospitalizations, greater use of palliative care also actually decreases health care costs. Nonetheless, both physicians and patients often shy away from palliative care, as it is frequently – though falsely – associated with death and dying. Unlike hospice care, however, palliative care is intended and appropriate for all patients, regardless of stage or prognosis. Advocates recommend that palliative care should be offered widely and early on in cancer treatment.


Realizing the Full Benefits of Palliative Care

Evidence is mounting for the manifold benefits of palliative care–which is focused on alleviating symptoms–for cancer patients. Studies have shown that cancer patients who receive palliative care experience higher quality of life, less depression, and are better functioning. They also live longer, even though fewer of them undergo aggressive end-of-life care. Thanks to fewer hospitalizations, greater use of palliative care also actually decreases health care costs. Nonetheless, both physicians and patients often shy away from palliative care, as it is frequently–though falsely–associated with death and dying. Unlike hospice care, however, palliative care is intended and appropriate for all patients, regardless of stage or prognosis. Advocates recommend that palliative care should be offered widely and early on in cancer treatment.


Realizing the Full Benefits of Palliative Care

Evidence is mounting for the manifold benefits of palliative care–which is focused on alleviating symptoms–for cancer patients. Studies have shown that cancer patients who receive palliative care experience higher quality of life, less depression, and are better functioning. They also live longer, even though fewer of them undergo aggressive end-of-life care. Thanks to fewer hospitalizations, greater use of palliative care also actually decreases health care costs. Nonetheless, both physicians and patients often shy away from palliative care, as it is frequently–though falsely–associated with death and dying. Unlike hospice care, however, palliative care is intended and appropriate for all patients, regardless of stage or prognosis. Advocates recommend that palliative care should be offered widely and early on in cancer treatment.


Steroid Treatment May Improve Cancer-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is a common and often debilitating symptom for people with advanced cancer. A recent clinical trial found that the steroid dexamethasone reduced fatigue in cancer patients who took it for 14 days. Other related symptoms, such as pain and loss of appetite, also improved, as did overall quality of life. However, in a recent survey, only one-quarter to one-third of cancer physicians said that they regularly use steroids to manage cancer-related fatigue. Because steroids can have serious side effects with long-term use, they may be most useful for patients with limited life expectancies or whose fatigue can be expected to resolve after short-term treatment.


Steroid Treatment May Improve Cancer-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is a common and often debilitating symptom for people with advanced cancer. A recent clinical trial found that the steroid dexamethasone reduced fatigue in cancer patients who took it for 14 days. Other related symptoms, such as pain and loss of appetite, also improved, as did overall quality of life. However, in a recent survey, only one-quarter to one-third of cancer physicians said that they regularly use steroids to manage cancer-related fatigue. Because steroids can have serious side effects with long-term use, they may be most useful for patients with limited life expectancies or whose fatigue can be expected to resolve after short-term treatment.


Steroid Treatment May Improve Cancer-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is a common and often debilitating symptom for people with advanced cancer. A recent clinical trial found that the steroid dexamethasone reduced fatigue in cancer patients who took it for 14 days. Other related symptoms, such as pain and loss of appetite, also improved, as did overall quality of life. However, in a recent survey, only one-quarter to one-third of cancer physicians said that they regularly use steroids to manage cancer-related fatigue. Because steroids can have serious side effects with long-term use, they may be most useful for patients with limited life expectancies or whose fatigue can be expected to resolve after short-term treatment.


Cancer Drug Labels Lack Patient-Centric Information

Unlike many non-cancer drugs, the vast majority of cancer drug labels do not include information about the medications’ effects on patient symptoms and quality of life. Such information is especially important given that some new cancer drugs offer only slightly increased survival benefits, making quality of life a crucial factor of a patient’s cost-benefit analysis. Worse symptoms and lower quality of life are also associated with patients not complying with treatment guidelines and with worse prognosis overall. In a recent article, cancer specialist Ethan Basch argues that drug developers should systematically collect information on how their treatments make patients feel and include direct patient input starting early in drug development.