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Doctors Who 'Self-Refer' to Radiation Clinics Add to Patients' Burden: Study
Date:8/22/2012

TUESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The practice of referring a cancer patient to a radiation clinic with links to the referring doctor can be difficult for patients, a new study finds.

The study focused on urologists in Texas. It found that the practice caused some men with prostate cancer to travel more than three times farther to receive the treatment they needed.

The researchers said the findings call into question this practice, known as physician self-referral, and highlight concerns about the increase in urology-owned radiation oncology practices.

"Travel time to cancer care centers is crucial, especially for older men with advanced disease, because external radiation therapy often requires daily treatment for six to eight weeks," Dr. Colleen Lawton, president-elect of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, said in a news release from the organization. "These patients often need to lean on friends and relatives to help them get to and from these multiple appointments."

Lawton, who is also professor and vice-chairman of the department of radiation oncology at the Froedtert and Medical College Clinical Cancer Center in Milwaukee, said that doctors "must be judicious when proposing treatment options to our patients and appreciate the time and travel investment, including significant transportation and fuel costs, they make when choosing radiation therapy."

In the study, researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Smith, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, looked at 229 urology practices in Texas. They found that 5 percent of the centers provided radiation oncology services (12 centers). The study also showed that 53 percent of the state's population lives within 10 miles of these 12 centers.

However, although these urology-owned practices had multiple clinics, each practice had only one radiation oncology treatment center focused on prostate cancer treatment. As a resul
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