Insufficient Care for Some Bladder Cancer Patients
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Nearly all patients with high-grade, non-invasive bladder cancer are not receiving the guideline-recommended care that would best protect them from recurrence, according to this study.
In fact, out of the 4,545 bladder cancer patients included in the study, only one received the comprehensive care recommended by the American Urology Association and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
Receiving the recommended comprehensive care for high-grade bladder cancer is critical because it can significantly minimize the likelihood that patients will die from their cancer, Dr. Karim Chamie, a postdoctoral fellow in urologic oncology and health services research and lead author of the study said.
“We were surprised by the findings in this study, particularly in an era when many suggest that doctors over-treat patients and do too much in the name of practicing defensive medicine,” Dr. Chamie said. “This study suggests quite the contrary, that we don’t do enough for patients with bladder cancer. If this was a report card on bladder cancer care in America, I’d say we’re earning a failing grade.”
The study then investigated the cause of poor compliance. What they found was that non-compliance knew no boundaries and that patient-level factors such as age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status had very little impact. Instead, non-compliance with guideline-recommended care was primarily attributed to urologists.
“It wasn’t their age, race, ZIP code or how wealthy they were. It all came down to who their doctor was,” Dr. Chamie said
Patients with primary high-grade bladder cancer, which has not yet invaded the muscle of the bladder, have a 50 to 70 percent chance of their cancer coming back in the bladder following treatment. They also have a 30 to 50 percent chance of the cancer becoming more aggressive and invading into the muscle, where it is much harder to treat. Once the cancer invades the muscle, the bladder and surrounding organs must be removed and both the quality and the quantity of the patient’s life are significantly impacted, Dr. Chamie said.
Dr. Chamie said that, at diagnosis, about 75 percent of bladder patients have disease that has not invaded the muscle. So treating those patients with the guideline-recommended care to help minimize recurrences and prevent invasion of the tumor into the muscle could help a large number of patients.
The recommended medical guidelines call for injecting a cancer-killing drug directly into the bladder to minimize recurrence and progression. They also recommend an intense follow-up schedule, including the repeated use of a scope to evaluate the bladder from the inside, a procedure called cystoscopy, and a urine test that is similar to a pap smear every three months to check for abnormal cells.
“We have to improve compliance and there are two ways to do that: Modify our reimbursement schedules to provide incentives to doctors to follow the guidelines, or go out and interact and educate the community urologists – who are delivering the vast majority of bladder cancer care – on the importance of providing compliant care,” Dr. Chamie said. “Unlike some patients diagnosed with bladder cancer after having it spread to other sites when it’s too late to treat effectively, or those with low-grade tumors that are not likely to ever be aggressive, this is a potentially curable cohort of patients. If we don’t do a good enough job treating these cancers, we’re going to lose these patients.”
SOURCE: CANCER, published online July 11, 2011