If you’re a guy with prostate cancer, the treatment your doctor recommends could very well be based on what he owns.
No, not his car… or house… or anything like that.
I’m talking about medical equipment. Radiation machines, to be exact.
Some new research from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has uncovered something that many urologists commonly do.
And it’s something that can make a huge difference in your enjoyment of life… or not.
Certainly, any man diagnosed with prostate cancer wants to make the best decisions possible on how to treat it.
And probably what his doctor recommends carries the most weight. After all, he’s seen this before — many times. And treated lots of other guys with the same questions and worries.
But here’s where his decision-making might get clouded: if that doctor, or his practice, owns radiation equipment and does “self-referrals” to the radiation centers in which he holds a vested interest.
The Anderson Cancer Center researchers examined the data on close to 18,000 men with localized prostate cancer. And they found that when the doctors had invested in radiation machines, guys were over 60 percent more likely to be receiving radical treatments such as surgery or radiation.
But here’s where it gets even crazier.
The men who had what’s known as “favorable risk disease,” which means a slow-growing, slacker of a cancer, were close to 90 percent more likely to be zapped with radiation when their specialists owned this equipment.
And that’s not the first time this problem has been identified.
Previous research at Georgetown University made similar findings… FOUR years ago. That study, financed by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, no less, found a similar preference for doctors who have invested millions in this equipment to tip the scales towards radiation.
Dr. Colleen Lawton, who was part of the earlier research, said at the time that while “it’s very clear to patients” that they’re more likely to be told by a surgeon they need surgery, this situation isn’t as obvious.
It’s doubtful that you’d even find out if the doctor who recommends radiation has an involvement in the radiation center he refers you to. Why, it’s almost an undercover deal! Who would think of such a thing, let alone ask if there’s a connection?
And these discoveries come at a time when more and more respected research is finding that “active surveillance” is the best way to go for most men with early prostate cancer.
As an eAlert reader, you’ve read a lot about active surveillance, and for good reason! Because the side effects of the brutal treatments many men are given — radiation included — in a lot of cases aren’t necessary at all.
Radiation, for example, can cause bowel problems, put grown men in diapers and cause impotence. And to think that many men are put through this for no good reason — other than profit — is beyond infuriating.
While active surveillance has been studied for decades, it has been given the kibosh for probably just as long by cancer doctors who go by the traditional slash-and-burn mantra. But lately, solid research has backed it up beyond reproach.
For example, just last year we told you about a study from the University of Oxford that followed over 1,600 men with early prostate cancer for ten years. Some received active surveillance, some radiation, and the third group had their prostates surgically removed.
And, after a decade, “virtually no one had died from prostate cancer,” said Dr. Mark Litwin, a urology chair at the David Geffen School of Medicine, after reviewing the study.
I could go on and on with other research showing the real benefits of active surveillance, but the bottom line is: If you’re a guy with localized, early prostate cancer, you need to know that you have options.
And if your doctor brushes this concept aside as if it’s absurd, you may want to find another doctor and get another opinion before you agree to any treatments.
“More prostate cancer patients get radiation when doctors own the equipment” Lisa Rapaport, April 7, 2017, Reuters, reuters.com