Dr. Justin E. Bekelman, an assistant professor of radiation oncology in University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center and colleagues from the Perelman School of Medicine reported that 95 percent of advanced terminal prostate cancer patients receive unnecessary radiation therapy in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Oct. 8, 2013.
The research was based on an examination of the treatment regimen for 3,050 men over the age of 65 that were treated with radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer and the spread of the cancer to bones. The patients came from the national Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Medicare database.
The recommendation for the use of radiation therapy in advanced prostate cancer is a single treatment to relieve pain unless spinal cord compression or broken bones are involved. The pain relieving effect of one treatment has proven just as effective as multiple radiation treatments in numerous studies.
The researchers found that only three percent of prostate cancer patients received a single radiation therapy for pain. More than 50 percent of prostate cancer patients received ten or more treatments.
The average cost to Medicare for one treatment is $1,873. Multiple radiation treatment for terminal prostate cancer pain relief costs Medicare $4,967.
The researchers point out that tremendous savings to Medicare and the taxpayer could be achieved by following established guidelines for terminal prostate cancer radiation treatment but that cannot occur as long as Medicare continues to pay for unnecessary and useless treatment for terminal prostate cancer.