Amid mounting concern that many men with low-risk prostate cancer in the United States are being treated unnecessarily, risking harm for no major benefit, comes an analysis that calculates the financial cost of this overtreatment.
Overtreatment costs more than $15,000 per person, which amounts to $32 million a year in the United States.
"This is a poor use of healthcare resources," said lead author Ayal Aizer, MD, resident physician at the Harvard radiation oncology program in Boston, Massachusetts. This money could be put to better use, especially in these times of cost containment and healthcare reform, he added.
Guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend active surveillance or watchful waiting for men with low-risk prostate cancer who have a life expectancy of 10 or fewer years.
"This is the only treatment option recommended for these patients," Dr. Aizer noted. Previous studies have shown that for men with low-risk disease, the risk of dying from their prostate cancer is very low, around 0% to 3%. Therefore, definitive treatment is not recommended because it would offer little survival benefit but has significant risk for harm, he told Medscape Medical News.
However, in clinical practice, many of these men do undergo definitive treatment, with either surgery or radiotherapy, which is overtreatment, he explained.
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