VA offers successful and cost-effective seed implant as their better choice of prostate cancer treatment

Posted on: April 6th, 2017
by: Jennifer


A recent radio program highlighted how a Veterans Administration facility, located in Richmond, Virginia, successfully uses LDR brachytherapy (also known as seed implant) to treat vets with aggressive prostate cancer.  McGuire VA Medical Center is reaching out to veterans with prostate cancer from across the country.

Brachytherapy: cost effective, successful treatment model

Brachytherapy, a  minimally invasive procedure, provides excellent prostate cancer outcomes, is cost-effective and convenient,  especially when compared to other treatment options. Radiation sources smaller than a grain of rice are placed inside the prostate, near cancer cells that are then disrupted and destroyed.  At approximately 1/3 the cost of either surgical removal of the prostate or external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy should serve as a model for other government sponsored healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Why would government sponsored programs pay more for treatments that do not provide better outcomes or fewer side effects?

Brachytherapy saves VA funds

Radiation oncologist and McGuire VA physician Dr. Drew Moghanaki described the current financial climate of prostate cancer treatment :

“The U.S. healthcare system is really a fee-for-service healthcare system. The more expensive procedures that can be done, the more revenue can be made. And brachytherapy just doesn’t make a lot of money for, you know, practitioners out in the real world. When you put together the convenience of a one-day procedure that is more effective and more cost effective, it really is a win, win, win.”

Seed implant is equally attractive to men who are self-insured or have large deductibles and/or co-payment requirements.  Furthermore, with minimal side-effects and a short recovery period, brachytherapy allows men to return more quickly to their normal activities and work, a benefit to employers and productivity.

Seed implant treatment option preferred by many men

Brachtherapy’s convenience and comfort draws contrasts with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and surgery.  EBRT can require six-to-eight weeks of daily treatment which, while cumbersome to the average patient, may be impossible for men who live in remote areas.  Surgical removal of the prostate (also called radical prostatectomy) requires a much longer recovery time and is no more effective than seed implants. Like EBRT, surgery can cause greater side effects.   A veteran from Puerto Rico, highlighted in the radio program, was offered the surgery option.  Instead, he travelled to the VA facility in Virginia where he could chose minimally invasive brachytherapy.

CPCC also serves veterans with prostate cancer

McGuire VA physicians have used LDR brachytherapy to treat over 1,000 military living in areas of the country that may only offer surgery or EBRT.  Similarly, Chicago Prostate Cancer Center (CPCC) has served over 600 men who have travelled from far beyond the Chicago area for consultation on seed implant.  Many of these men are included among over 14,000 brachytherapy procedures completed by CPCC to date, more than any other prostate center in the world.

The Veterans Health Care Administration has a responsibility to offer quality medical treatment within 30 days and pay for treatment at an alternative location if it is not available within 40 miles of the veteran’s home.  Dr. Moghanaki recently visited Chicago Prostate Cancer Center, and is now collaborating with us to treat their overabundance of prostate cancer patients choosing LDR brachytherapy.

One veteran’s treatment journey

Kenny, a veteran from Georgia, served in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in the early 1980’s after graduation from North Georgia College—a highly regarded military school in Dahlonega, GA.  Last year at age 57, Kenny received a prostate cancer diagnosis that required several types of treatment, which is not uncommon for men with certain higher-risk prostate cancers.

Kenny’s son in the Chicago suburbs knew about the unique expertise of CPCC—a leader in the field of LDR brachytherapy.  They were both grateful Kenny was eligible to receive the seed implant portion of his treatment at CPCC, in coordination with the excellent additional required treatment he received at Hines VA Hospital — all while being with family.

Vet recommends services, support he received at CPCC

“In addition to access to the modern facilities at CPCC and the professional expertise of Dr. Moran and the entire staff, I was received as an individual rather than the next patient and provided the emotional confidence which is key to successful treatment.”

While in town for his seed implant, Kenny showed his support at our annual community 5k event.  He is planning to visit again to reconnect and join other survivors at our next Run and Walk for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, September 10, 2017.

An avid outdoorsman, Kenny looks forward to many upcoming fishing and hunting seasons.

Information for men, including our veterans

For more information on prostate cancer and LDR brachytherapy, or to speak with a volunteer who is a ‘veteran’ of prostate cancer treatment, contact Chicago Prostate Cancer Center at 630-654-2515.  Or attend a Prostate Cancer Informational Support Group meeting at the Center.  Veterans can also contact the Veterans Choice Program to determine if they meet eligibility criteria for authorization of treatment with seed implant at our facility.

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