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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are Profits Driving Treatments For Prostate Cancer?

A prostate cancer patient prepares for IMRT treatment. (Upstate Medical University)

Cases in California, Washington, Maryland and South Carolina are leading investigators and Medicare to ask if financial incentives are influencing treatments doctors recommend for prostate cancer.

More and more urologists are recommending an expensive radiation therapy called intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for treatment of prostate cancer.

IMRT backers say use is spreading because it works better, with fewer side effects than other technologies.

But urologists like Dr. Matthew Cooperberg of the University of California, San Francisco told Bloomberg news that “IMRT is overused.”

Cooperberg said that “about half the 50,000 men who receive IMRT for prostate cancer each year don’t need it or don’t gain anything from it that exceeds cheaper treatment.”

The prostate is the gland that helps produce semen. About 242 thousand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the U.S., making it the most common U.S. cancer.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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