Advancements in Prostate Cancer Treatment Technology are Worth the Cost

18 March 2011

A new study released this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology calls into question the rapid adoption of new technologies being used to treat prostate cancer.  The study states that these newer technologies, of which robotic prostatectomy is included, have not been proven to add a level of benefit equal to the increase in cost on a per procedure basis.

I have read similar studies in the past, and have even publicly commented on a couple of them.  The issue that arises with these studies is that they don’t tell you the whole story.  Much like with the study performed by Dr. Jim Hu and the one performed by The Cancer Institute of New Jersey this study has some glaring flaws.  One important factor is that it does not differentiate between open laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery when talking about surgical treatment options.  It also does not take into account complications that arise from traditional treatment options that require further medical attention such as impotence, urinary incontinence, and a recurrence of cancer.  These risks are greatly reduced through robotic surgery performed by a skilled surgeon, something that this study fails to take into consideration.  Robotic surgery may be more costly when simply looking at the price of the procedure, but when you consider the lack of follow-up treatment necessary and increased quality of life for the patient, it ends up being a more cost-effective option.

The study states that, “Even if there is some underlying clinical benefit to these newer more expensive therapies, it is still important to ask whether the marginal benefit of these therapies is large enough to justify their higher cost…”  As stated above, I personally do not believe the benefit of a robotic prostatectomy to be “marginal” when compared to the alternatives.  I feel that the results that I and other surgeons have been able to achieve prove that robotic surgery provides the best results that can currently be achieved.  In my practice we have a 97% cure rate, 96% of my patients regain urinary continence, and 85% of my patients regain sexual function.

When treating prostate cancer we can’t just look at the cost of the surgery and studies using dated materials when determining whether a new method has benefit.  We need to look at the outcome; the people who have been given their lives back.  Surgeons who actually perform these procedures and see the outcomes for themselves can give you a much better idea of the benefits you’ll see by picking a more advanced treatment option.

If prostate cancer is something you’re facing I strongly urge you to research all of the treatments available to you.  I also urge you to research your doctors.  Talk to them about the procedures they perform, their methods, their success rates and post-operative continence and potency rates.

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