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Proton Beam Therapy Better for Prostate Cancer?

Bowel, Urinary Problems continued...

By two to three months later, men treated with proton beam therapy reported minimal diarrhea and cramping compared with men in either of the other two groups.

But by one year later, men treated with proton beams had similar bowel problems, and that persisted out to the two years of the study.

All three groups had more urinary irritation and flow problems in the first few months of treatment than they did before the study started. Men given IMRT fared the worst, reporting bothersome urinary problems in the early months. "By two years out, all three groups had minimal, lingering problems," Gray says.

And all three groups reported worsening sexual function over the two years of the study.

The men weren't followed for long enough to know whether one treatment curbs tumor growth better than the others.

$32,500 Price Tag

A study reported at another cancer meeting last winter showed that men treated with proton beams later had about one-third more bowel problems, such as bleeding and blockages, than similar men given conventional radiation.

Proton beam therapy is about 70% more expensive than IMRT, says James Yu, MD, a radiation oncologist at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

A review of Medicare claims data showed the average amount that Medicare reimbursed for proton beam therapy is about $32,500 vs. about $18,500 for IMRT.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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