October 28, 2020

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“The outlook for metastatic cancer has barely improved”

"The outlook for metastatic cancer has barely improved"


Photo: ANP

Little progress has been made in treating cancer in the past decade when the cancer has spread. The Integrated Cancer Center of the Netherlands (IKNL) reports in a new report that half of people whose cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis only lived six months or less. That is a month longer than ten years ago.

Every year 38,000 people in the Netherlands are notified that they have metastatic cancer. In every fifth cancer patient, the cancer has already spread at the time of diagnosis. That’s 21,000 patients a year. Half of them live a maximum of six months.

The outlook differs depending on the type of cancer. Most of them have lung cancer. For them, their chances of survival have barely increased in the past ten years. With metastatic esophageal cancer and bladder cancer, survival has not improved at all, according to the IKNL in the report Metastatic cancer in the picture. People with metastatic prostate cancer, breast cancer, or melanoma have more prospects. For example, patients with prostate or breast cancer can sometimes experience a good quality of life for many years.

Since it is not certain in advance whether a treatment will work, according to the IKNL it is important that the wishes regarding the care are discussed. “By asking what the patient thinks is important, the healthcare provider can work with the patient to determine how long they want to be treated and at what price. In patients with metastatic cancer, life and death can be very close, ”says the IKNL. “When doctors and nurses think ahead with the patient, it is more likely that they will be able to take care of the patient at home in the latter part of their life and ensure that the patient has fewer symptoms such as chest tightness and pain.”