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Radiotherapy

MagazineApril 2009 (Vol. 20 Issue 1)Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is given to around 40 per cent of the 10 million people worldwide who are newly diagnosed with cancer every year

Radiotherapy is given to around 40 per cent of the 10 million people worldwide who are newly diagnosed with cancer every year.

But it's such a dangerous therapy-and one that appears to come with more than its fair share of medical mistakes-that the World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to step in.

The World Alliance for Patient Safety, launched by the WHO in 2004, wants to create a series of treatment protocols that are safer because they learn from the mistakes made in the past. The most common treatment error is a radiation overdose, such as was discovered by radiologists at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary. Around 1000 cancer patients had received overdoses over the course of 10 years before the technicians there realized that they had not been using the computers properly.

In the non-litigious UK, there have been around 150 negligence claims

for radiation damage in the past 30 years (BMJ, 2007; 334: 272).


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