Sunday, October 28, 2012

New doesn't always mean better

Back in 2007 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, all the patient boards were talking about this new kind of radiation called 'Mammosite' or brachytherapy. The advantage to it was you went twice a day for one week as opposed to once a day for 8 weeks. I asked my radiation oncologist and she said it was not yet available where I was treated. I was a tiny bit disappointed but figured I could suck it up and cope with daily visits for near 8 weeks. (The biggest pain about radiation treatment is having to go EVERY day for weeks.)

A few years later, I went to a cancer treatment conference at the same hospital and they said they were just beginning to offer this mammosite radiation to selected patients and explained the procedure how beads were inserted during surgery, etc. I felt a faint tinge of regret that I hadn't had the newer treatment type. It was newer so it must be better? Right?

Wrong. Now after it has been used for five years and on more than 50,000 women a clearer picture is emerging..
  1. The outcome for patients is not necessarily better for women who have mammosite radiation than regular full breast radiation.
  2. There is a much higher rate of side effects with mammosite radiation - 35% vs. 18% for regular radiation.
  3. Mammosite radiation costs twice as much as traditional radiation.
Hmmm.... So newer isn't necessarily better. This doesn't mean that mammosite shouldn't be an option and maybe teh shorter treatment period will benefit some women. I think I'm happy with the course of treatment I had.

Often times there are treatment advances and cancer patients look back with regret 'why couldn't that treatment hve been available when I was being treated?' Not this time. No regrets for me.

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