Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Not a practical option

Earlier this week, or maybe it was last week, I saw several articles on this new intraoperative radiation for breast cancer. This is when a radioactive probe is inserted into the breast during surgery and allows the patient to skip traditional radiation. Of course, they may still need chemotherapy and other treatments.

The first articles I saw touted its benefits. I was a bit pessimistic about this. I have heard about it and think it is approved in the US (but I am no doctor so don't think I know all about this). It is only for certain early stage breast cancers so it is not for everyone.

The reason for this hype is that it was just approved in the UK's NHS. And then I just saw this article about a UK doctor's thoughts on this:

"The treatment, given approval for NHS use in draft guidance by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, would benefit up to 36,000 people nationwide.

The technique, called intra-operative radiation, is suitable only for patients who have caught their cancer early..."

"...The initial price of the treatment is expensive, with each probe costing £500,000.

The procedure is performed during surgery.

Once the tumour is removed, a probe is inserted into the breast and delivers radiation to the site of the cancer for about half an hour."

That is when I fell off my chair. Am I understanding this correctly? Each probe costs  £500,000. Clearly it must mean the entire big instrument. Not just an individual probe. But I can't tell for sure based on how the article is written.

If its £500,000 for a single treatment, that is crazy. And if the machine costs £500,000, that's just damn expensive. Not a practical option in my opinion.

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