Private insurance, better prostate surgery outcome?

Sep 21, 2011, 12:16 p.m.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about half of the more than 190,000 U.S. men diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 fell into the "low-risk" category -- meaning their cancer had low odds of progression. Because there's no way to predict for sure, those men may end up receiving treatment they do not necessarily need.

As for the men in the current study, Trinh said there was no information on the stage of their cancer at diagnosis, or the "grade" of their tumors (a measure of how aggressive the cancer appears to be).

So it's not possible to tell how many men may have been "overtreated," Trinh said.

He added, though, that the findings add another layer to the bigger issue: "Some patients, based on their insurance type, might be receiving sub-optimal surgical care for an overdiagnosed and overtreated disease," he said.

The study is not the first to spot differences in surgery outcomes between privately insured and publicly insured patients. Trinh noted that disparities have also been found when it comes to colorectal surgery, neurosurgery and orthopedic procedures, among others.

"At the end of the day," he said, "it is hard to decipher the root causes of this effect, but it is very real and has significance as we approach changes to the healthcare system in the coming years."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/pigzmC Cancer, online August 25, 2011.

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