Don't Get Cancer if You're Obese: Short-Changing Chemotherapy

Don't Get Cancer if You're Obese: Short-Changing Chemotherapy

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer, going through grueling chemotherapy treatments, and discovering that the therapy wasn't successful... due to a withholding of the proper chemotherapy dose.  For 40% of obese patients, that nightmare is a reality when they receive 85% of the necessary dose due to their weight.


Image: Stephen Dickter via Flickr

According to a report on ABC News, this practice of not matching the dose to size has contributed to a higher rate of death in obese patients.  Research has shown that "bigger people handle chemo better than smaller people do."  Yet doctors are still fearful of giving obese patients the correct dosage of chemotherapy for their weight.  The American Society of Clinical Oncology is asking that doctors change to using weight-based dosage for chemotherapy, stating, "Don't call it supersizing; it's right-sizing cancer care."

We've seen a lot of discrimination towards obese individuals in various areas of health care not to mention a wide-range of businesses from airlines to restaurants.  Yet in this case, we're talking about a person's survival.  For 40% of obese cancer patients, before they've taken their first dosage of chemotherapy, the odds are stacked against them -- not by science or fate, but by the doctor treating them.

ABC News report states, "60 percent of Americans are overweight and more than one-third of them are obese."  Additionally, the NIH marks obesity as a cancer risk for "esophagus, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium (the lining of the uterus), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and possibly other cancer types."

The solution includes action on the part of patients.  Patients and/or their family members should be having a conversation before chemotherapy begins, asking about the dosage.  If the doctor isn't giving the full dosage, there should be a reason such as a conflicting health issue that balances out the choice in not giving a dosage based on weight.

What do you think of this report of obesity discrimination in cancer treatment?  Have you or a loved one experienced chemotherapy while obese?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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