Medicare May Be Behind Prostate Treatment Move

After funding cut, more doctors used surgical castration over injection
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 7, 2008 11:40 AM CDT
Prostate cancer treatments may have been affected by changes in Medicare reimbursement.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Slashed Medicare reimbursement might have altered how doctors treat prostate cancer, pushing them to favor castration surgery over hormone therapy, USA Today reports. A study in the journal Cancer shows hormone-therapy injections jumped in the 1990s and early 2000s, while castration surgeries decreased. But when Medicare halved what it paid for the therapy, injections dropped 14% and surgical castration rose 4%.

In an ever-changing practice, the change was sudden enough to point to a financial influence, the study notes. While Medicare used to make hormone therapy profitable for doctors, the process can now cost them. But, experts say, the shift could also be due to new concerns over side effects, changes in shots’ frequency for each patient or simply random fluctuation.