Cancer care differs from hospital to hospital: report

There is still too much difference between hospitals in cancer treatment, despite the introduction of minimum standards, the Dutch cancer research association KWF says.

Minimum standards are designed to ensure oncologists undertake enough operations each year to keep the quality high. To achieve this, cancer treatment is gradually being centralised in fewer hospitals.

As a result, nearly half of hospitals no longer treat stomach cancer and only 40% operate for pancreatic cancer.

Nevertheless, the KWF says in a report published on Tuesday that the standard of treatment differs and cancer patients receive better care in some hospitals.

The differences are greatest with prostate cancer. There are nearly 12,000 new diagnoses each year, making it the most common form of cancer in men.

Just one-third of patients with an agressive form of this cancer are given hormone treatment in addition to chemotherapy. Yet the guidelines state hormone treatment can increase life expectancy.

‘The chance is great that a patient will have a better chance of suvival at one hospital rather than another,’ oncologist and co-writer of the report Michel Wouters told the Volkskrant.

He wants to see more concentration of forms of treatment other than operations. For instance, chemotherapy for testicular cancer needs to be centralised. Some oncologists think five patients a year is enough to ensure the quality of the treatment, but Wouters wants this number raised.

In a reaction, the Dutch hospital association NVZ told the Volkskrant that smaller hospitals are working hard to improve cancer care.

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