WEDNESDAY, March 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) — More than half of older American women with early breast cancer may get more radiation treatment (RT) than needed, which significantly and unnecessarily increases medical costs, according to a study published online March 14 in the Journal of Oncology Practice.
Rachel Greenup, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of surgery at Duke University Medical Center Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C., and colleagues used 2011 data on 43,247 breast cancer patients age 50 and older from the U.S. National Cancer Database. All patients had small tumors that had not spread to the lymph nodes. They had undergone breast-conserving surgery followed by breast RT.
Fifty-seven percent of women who could have avoided breast RT or undergone a shorter course still got longer, more expensive courses. The researchers estimated $164 million could have been saved by ordering a shorter RT course. For the entire year, RT costs approximated $420.2 million for the entire cohort versus $256.2 million for women treated with the least expensive regimens for which they were safely eligible.
“In conclusion, our study highlights an underused opportunity for high-value cancer care within breast oncology. Evidence-based RT after lumpectomy illustrates an example of a systematic approach for identifying cost-effective alternatives to conventional RT,” the authors write. “Opportunities exist for patients to receive high-quality breast cancer care at reduced costs, and these options should be encouraged in the clinical setting as long as oncologic outcomes and patient autonomy can be maintained.”
Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
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