Harvard Perspectives on Prostate Disease

Radiation therapy in the spotlight (Part 2 of 2)

Do economics and potential profits drive treatment recommendations?

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 187,000 men will learn this year that they have prostate cancer. For many of them, deciding how to treat the disease "" or even whether to treat it "" isn't easy. They can't simply plug variables, such as likelihood of a cure and future quality of life, into a complex mathematical equation and solve for x, their ideal treatment. Even after they read their pathology report, seek second opinions, and research treatment options online, many remain confused. Inevitably, that prompts the question: "What would you do, Doctor?"

Unfortunately, with a shortage of definitive data proving one therapy superior to another, financial motives might influence the physician's response. With reimbursements from insurers falling, physicians under economic pressure may subtly steer patients toward the treatment with the highest reimbursement rate. Similarly, institutions that launch new facilities with state-of-the-art technology may over-promote the technology to recoup their investment, even if that particular technology has not been thoroughly evaluated.

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