(NEWSnet/AP) — Reducing treatment for some types of cancer can improve life for patients without hindering progress, doctors noted at a conference of American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

It’s part of a trend toward studying whether doing less surgery, chemotherapy or radiation can help patients live longer and feel better. The latest studies involved ovarian and esophageal cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Thirty years ago, the common approach was to maximize treatment. Recently, in a quest to optimize cancer care, researchers are asking: “Do we need all that treatment we have used in the past?”

Often, doing less works because of improved drugs.

“The good news is that cancer treatment is not only becoming more effective, it’s becoming easier to tolerate and associated with less short-term and long-term complications,” said Dr. William G. Nelson of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new research.

Studies demonstrating the trend were discussed over the weekend at the conference. A summary of results:

Ovarian. Researchers found it’s safe to avoid removing lymph nodes that appear healthy during surgery for advanced ovarian cancer. The study compared results for about 380 patients, half had lymph nodes removed and half did not. After nine years, there was no difference in how long patients lived. Those with less-extreme surgery had fewer complications.

Esophageal. A study examined 438 people with a type of cancer of the esophagus that can be treated with surgery. Half received a common treatment plan involving chemotherapy and surgery. Half got an approach that also includes radiation. After three years, 57% who received chemo and surgery were alive, compared to 51% who got all three.

Hodgkin. Comparison of chemotherapy regimens for advanced Hodgkin lymphoma found less-intensive treatment was more effective and caused fewer side effects. After four years, less-intense treatment kept the disease in check in 94% of people, compared to 91% of those who had the more intense approach.

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