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Penn Researchers Spotlight More Effective Cancer Treatment

(Dr. Justin Bekelman. Credit: Dr. Justin Bekelman, University of Pennsylvania.)

(Dr. Justin Bekelman. Credit: Dr. Justin Bekelman, University of Pennsylvania.)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that terminally ill cancer patients often receive costly and unnecessary radiation treatments.

Dr. Justin Bekelman’s team looked at how doctors treat pain caused by cancer spreading to a patient’s bones, and they found that despite clear evidence that one radiation treatment is as effective as multiple doses, most doctors use multiple doses.

According to Bekelman, there may be many reasons for this, but none of them justify not using the single treatment. “It improves quality of life and is more convenient for patients. It’s just good for patients.”

Bekelman calls this area of study the low hanging fruit of health care reform, a cheaper treatment that’s also a better treatment.

He believes there are other doctors unnecessarily using multiple radiation treatments, and he endorses a campaign called “Choosing Wisely,” aimed at getting physicians to make sure they’re using the most efficient treatment.

The affordable care act may speed the process, Bekelman says. “Payment reforms that incentivize high quality, high value cancer care could begin to move the needle.”

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