Georgetown University researchers looking at the increased use of intensity modulated radiation therapy for prostate cancer found self-referral plays a large role in its escalating use.
Researchers were preparing a report using Medicare data when they stumbled on a startling fact about a local practice called Chesapeake Urology, according to an article in the Sunday Baltimore Sun. Since 2007, when the center acquired its own IMRT machine, its use of the treatment more than tripled to about 43 percent of its Medicare patients with prostate cancer, the article states.
Researchers also told the Sun they are finding the use of IMRT by some practices in other parts of the country refer as many as 70 percent of their Medicare patients.
Currently no clinical trials show patients receiving IMRT live longer or experience fewer long-term side effects than the alternatives, according to James Mohler, chairman of the national committee that sets standards for prostate-cancer care, based on the Sun report.
IMRT costs around $40,000 per treatment. Alternatives include brachytherapy, where radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate gland, which costs about $30,000. Surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland costs around $25,000.
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