Learning-by-doing in cancer surgery

Physician quality is often regarded by researhers as an immutable trait. There are high-quality physicians and low-quality physicians. In most areas where technical skill is required, however, practice makes perfect. A key question is, does ‘practice-makes-perfect’ (aka learning-by-doing) occur for physicians as well? A key challenge when doing this research is knowing the direction of…

Progress in the war on cancer

Siegel et al. (2019) present a review of cancer incidence and mortality statistics in American over recent decades. Their key findings were: Over the past decade of data, the cancer incidence rate (2006‐2015) was stable in women and declined by approximately 2% per year in men, whereas the cancer death rate (2007‐2016) declined annually by…

What is more for cancer patients: increased screening or treatment innovation?

Let’s get this out of the way: both are clearly important.  Within appropriate screening, patients don’t get the treatment they need.  Further, delayed screening can make treatments less effective if the cancer has progressed or metastasized.  On the other hand, without effective treatment, screening won’t have a major impact on patient outcomes. The question is,…

Cancer survival around the world

An interesting study measuring trends in cancer survival between 2000 and 2014 found, unsurprisingly, that patients in more developed countries had better survival. For women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2014, 5-year survival rates reached 89.5% in Australia and 90.2% in the United States, but generally varied worldwide and remained low in some…

What do cancer patients value when making treatment decisions?

Clearly choosing treatments that extend expected survival is important, but survival expectations are not the only factor that matters to cancer patients. A 2017 NCCN policy report–based on the findings from a working group–identifies a number of factors: Patients, for example, may view high-value care as any combination of trust, transparency, and effective communication with…

Off-label use of cancer drugs

When each drug is approved by the FDA, the drug is not approved to treat all patients.  Each drug receives an “indication” which basically represents the types of patients the drug can treat.  Giving the treatment to patients with said indication is known as “on label” prescribing. Drugs developed to treat one disease may sometimes…