Cancer doctors don't focus on lifestyle risks
SEE ALSO :Bust those diet and cancer mythsPatients need to realize their lifestyle, their weight, their physical activity, their smoking all have a big influence on the likelihood their cancer will recur, Spring said. “They also impact the likelihood you will develop heart disease,” she tells patients. “Very likely, the drugs you were given to address the cancer may have had a toxic effect on your heart. This is one of the things you can do to help control the risk.” To investigate oncologist attitudes towards lifestyle counseling, Spring and her colleagues surveyed 91 Northwestern doctors, including 30 primary care physicians, 30 oncologists and 31 physicians in other specialties (urologists, gynecologists and dermatologists) who treat survivors of prostate cancer, breast cancer and melanoma. Ninety percent of primary care physicians said they recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss and smoking cessation to at least some cancer survivors. That was true for just 26.7per cent of oncologists and 9.7per cent of specialists. The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 12 of the oncologists, who cited a number of concerns that drove their decision not to offer lifestyle counseling. Chief among them: they feared patients wouldn’t be able to make lifestyle changes and continue to take their medications properly.
SEE ALSO :Late diagnosis hurts cancer war - medicsAs for the idea that patients won’t take their medications if they are also trying to make lifestyle changes, Shapiro said, “that doesn’t jive with my own experience. My group is well versed in these kinds of things that patients can do for themselves and how successful they are.” The new study covers “an important topic,” said Elizabeth A. Platz, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. “The study is telling us that not all physicians are in the position to educate patients about lifestyle changes and oncologists often don’t have time to do referrals,” Platz said. “That means that oncologists may need other clinical staff to be engaged in those activities.” Part of the problem, Platz said, is that research linking certain lifestyle factors, such as obesity, to cancer risk may not have been absorbed by oncologists. “We need to make an effort to deal with that,” she said.
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