Elderly men with prostate cancer are more likely to be treated with radiation when their doctors own radiation machines - even patients who may be too old to benefit from the treatment, a U.S. study suggests.
Prostate cancers may grow too slowly to cause symptoms before an elderly man dies from other causes. Doctors can therefore opt to forego screening or treating some older men to spare them unnecessary procedures with side effects like impotence and incontinence.
For the current study, researchers examined data on more than 31,000 men aged 65 and older who were newly diagnosed with prostate cancer. The researchers were looking to see how often patients received radiation even when they had little risk of dying from tumors over the next decade, and high odds of dying from some other cause.
“Patients should be aware that financial incentives of their provider can influence how they are treated for their prostate cancer,” said lead study author Dr. Brent Hollenbeck of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“Urologists in some single-specialty groups with an ownership interest in IMRT were more likely to treat, and even overtreat, patients with IMRT than urologists affiliated with a multispecialty practice or a group without an ownership stake,” Hollenbeck said.