Appealing Medicares Decisions Regarding Cancer Coverage
You have the right to file an appeal in the event that Medicare does not reimburse a healthcare provider or service for something that you feel should be covered. That goes for whether youve already received the service or item, or if you believe that you should be eligible to receive it.
There are five levels to the appeals process that give you the opportunity to take your appeal all of the way to a judicial review by a federal district judge if you disagree with the decision made at any stage.
The exact process you will follow to go through this process depends on which type of Medicare plan you have. Also, if you need help with filing your appeal, you can either appoint a representative to help you or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program.
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Your Cancer Care Team
People with cancer should be cared for by a multidisciplinary team . This is a team of specialists who work together to provide the best care and treatment.
The team often consists of specialist cancer surgeons, oncologists , radiologists, pathologists, radiographers and specialist nurses.
Other members may include physiotherapists, dietitians and occupational therapists. You may also have access to clinical psychology support.
When deciding what treatment is best for you, your doctors will consider:
- the type and size of the cancer
- what grade it is
- whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body
Surgically Removing The Prostate Gland
A radical prostatectomy is the surgical removal of your prostate gland. This treatment is an option for curing prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate or has not spread very far.
Like any operation, this surgery carries some risks, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
In extremely rare cases, problems arising after surgery can be fatal.
It’s possible that prostate cancer can come back again after treatment. Your doctor should be able to explain the risk of your cancer coming back after treatment, based on things like your PSA level and the stage of your cancer.
Studies have shown that radiotherapy after prostate removal surgery may increase the chances of a cure, although research is still being carried out into when it should be used after surgery.
After a radical prostatectomy, you’ll no longer ejaculate during sex. This means you will not be able to have a child through sexual intercourse.
You may want to ask your doctors about storing a sperm sample before the operation so it can be used later for in vitro fertilisation .
If Treatment Does Not Work
Recovery from cancer is not always possible. If the cancer cannot be cured or controlled, the disease may be called advanced or terminal.
This diagnosis is stressful, and for some people, advanced cancer may be difficult to discuss. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns. The health care team has special skills, experience, and knowledge to support patients and their families and is there to help. Making sure a person is physically comfortable, free from pain, and emotionally supported is extremely important.
People who have advanced cancer and who are expected to live less than 6 months may want to consider hospice care. Hospice care is designed to provide the best possible quality of life for people who are near the end of life. You and your family are encouraged to talk with the health care team about hospice care options, which include hospice care at home, a special hospice center, or other health care locations. Nursing care and special equipment, including a hospital bed, can make staying at home a workable option for many families. Learn more about advanced cancer care planning.
After the death of a loved one, many people need support to help them cope with the loss. Learn more about grief and loss.
Q: How Often Should I See My Doctor
Following EBRT, follow-up appointments with the doctor will help monitor the patients recovery and ensure any side effects are diminishing. The frequency of follow-ups will depend on the risk of cancer recurrence. PSA blood tests will start around the third month after treatment and are repeated every 3 to 4 months during the first 2 to 3 years and then every 6 months. Brachytherapy patients will have a CT scan of the prostate 3 to 4 weeks after the procedure. This scan will evaluate the quality of the implant.
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What Types Of Hormone Therapy Are Used For Prostate Cancer
- reducing androgen production by the testicles
- blocking the action of androgens throughout the body
- block androgen production throughout the body
Treatments that reduce androgen production by the testicles are the most commonly used hormone therapies for prostate cancer and the first type of hormone therapy that most men with prostate cancer receive. This form of hormone therapy includes:
Treatments that block the action of androgens in the body are typically used when ADT stops working. Such treatments include:
Treatments that block the production of androgens throughout the body include:
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How Well It Works
Men with localized prostate cancer who have a low chance that their cancer will spread can choose active surveillance. One study compared active monitoring , surgery, and radiation in men who had localized prostate cancer and found that the risk of dying was very low and about the same, no matter what option men chose.footnote 3
Another study looked at men with low-risk localized prostate cancer and found that:footnote 4
- At 5 years, about 76 out of 100 men were untreated and still on active surveillance.
- At 10 years, about 64 out of 100 men were untreated and still on active surveillance.
- At 15 years, about 55 out of 100 men were untreated and still on active surveillance.
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Possible Side Effects Of Ebrt
Some of the side effects from EBRT are the same as those from surgery, while others are different.
Bowel problems: Radiation can irritate the rectum and cause a condition called radiation proctitis. This can lead to diarrhea, sometimes with blood in the stool, and rectal leakage. Most of these problems go away over time, but in rare cases normal bowel function does not return. To help lessen bowel problems, you may be told to follow a special diet during radiation therapy to help limit bowel movement during treatment. Sometimes a balloon-like device or gel is put between the rectum and the prostate before treatment to act like a spacer to lessen the amount of radiation that reaches the rectum.
Urinary problems: Radiation can irritate the bladder and lead to a condition called radiation cystitis. You might need to urinate more often, have a burning sensation while you urinate, and/or find blood in your urine. Urinary problems usually improve over time, but in some men they never go away.
Some men develop urinary incontinence after treatment, which means they cant control their urine or have leakage or dribbling. As described in the surgery section, there are different levels and types of incontinence. Overall, this side effect occurs less often with radiation therapy than after surgery. The risk is low at first, but it goes up each year for several years after treatment.
Are You A Candidate
Whether your doctor recommends radiation depends on various factors, including your age, health, and personal preferences. The type of radiation is often dictated by your risk group and whether the cancer is localized or has spread.
Sometimes hormone therapy is given before radiation or along with it. ADT reduces levels of male hormones, called androgens, which can slow or even stop the cancers growth. Studies have found this one-two punch leads to higher survival rates than radiation alone among men with localized prostate cancer and a Gleason score of 7 or higher.
If you opt for surgery, your doctor may suggest radiation afterward, called adjuvant radiation therapy. “You have surgery to remove cancer, and then radiation to eliminate any remaining tumor deposits to keep cancer from returning,” says Dr. Anthony DAmico, a radiation oncologist with Harvards Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Cancer that has grown beyond the prostate also may require post-surgery radiation.
After youve had radiation, youll have a prostate-specific antigen test every three to six months for five years and then annually after that to check for recurrence of the cancer. “If your PSA ever rises above 2, then imaging tests are done, and if needed, additional radiation or other appropriate treatment is given,” says Dr. DAmico.
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Do We Know Which Treatment Is Best For Prostate Cancer Brachytherapy Or External Beam Radiation
Its not a question of which type of radiation therapy is best in general, but rather which therapy is best for the patients specific disease and quality-of-life concerns. We want to use the most tailored, pinpointed radiation to treat the prostate tumor effectively while minimizing side effects. This can depend on the tumors size and stage as well as other patient characteristics and even a patients individual preferences.
Staging Of Prostate Cancer
Doctors will use the results of your prostate examination, biopsy and scans to identify the stage of your prostate cancer .
The stage of the cancer will determine which types of treatments will be necessary.
If prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the chances of survival are generally good.
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What Types Of Radiotherapy Are There
There are two common types of external beam radiotherapy:
- intensity-modulated radiotherapy
- 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy .
You may also hear about image guided radiotherapy . This is part of all radiotherapy treatments. Taking images of the prostate before each treatment allows your radiographer to make small changes to the area that is going to be treated, in case the prostate has moved slightly since your last treatment session. This makes sure the surrounding healthy tissue gets as little radiation as possible. It also makes sure the whole prostate is treated.
This is the most common type of external beam radiotherapy in the UK. A computer uses the scans from your radiotherapy planning session to map the location, size and shape of your prostate. The radiotherapy machine gives beams of radiation that match the shape of the prostate as closely as possible. This helps to avoid damaging the healthy tissue around it, reducing the risk of side effects.
The strength of the radiation can be controlled so that different areas get a different dose. This means a higher dose of radiation can be given to the prostate without causing too much damage to surrounding tissue.
3D conformal radiotherapy
As with IMRT, the radiation beams are mapped to the size, shape and position of the prostate. But the strength of the radiation cant be controlled in 3D-CRT, so all areas are treated with the same dose.
Other types of radiotherapy
Proton beam therapy
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy Or Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy
This type of therapy is used to deliver high doses of radiation to a precise area in the prostate using specialized techniques not achievable by standard conventional radiation therapy. This allows the total dose of radiation to be given in a shorter amount of time, usually 4 -5 treatments over 1 2 weeks rather than the several weeks used for other types of external radiation therapy.
The radiation beam needs to be extremely accurate in order to limit the side effects on healthy tissue. During treatment, the body immobilization used is often more restrictive than with IMRT due to the high doses of radiation. Fiducials, or internal prostate markers, are often used in this type of treatment.
Cyberknife and Truebeam are two types of LINACs used for SBRT treatment of prostate cancer.
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External Beam Radiation Therapy
In EBRT, beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland from a machine outside the body. This type of radiation can be used to try to cure earlier stage cancers, or to help relieve symptoms such as bone pain if the cancer has spread to a specific area of bone.
You will usually go for treatment 5 days a week in an outpatient center for at least several weeks, depending on why the radiation is being given. Each treatment is much like getting an x-ray. The radiation is stronger than that used for an x-ray, but the procedure typically is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time getting you into place for treatment takes longer.
Newer EBRT techniques focus the radiation more precisely on the tumor. This lets doctors give higher doses of radiation to the tumor while reducing the radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissues.
How Radiation Is Used With Other Cancer Treatments
For some people, radiation may be the only treatment you need. But, most often, you will have radiation therapy with other cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Radiation therapy may be given before, during, or after these other treatments to improve the chances that treatment will work. The timing of when radiation therapy is given depends on the type of cancer being treated and whether the goal of radiation therapy is to treat the cancer or ease symptoms.
When radiation is combined with surgery, it can be given:
- Before surgery, to shrink the size of the cancer so it can be removed by surgery and be less likely to return.
- During surgery, so that it goes straight to the cancer without passing through the skin. Radiation therapy used this way is called intraoperative radiation. With this technique, doctors can more easily protect nearby normal tissues from radiation.
- After surgery to kill any cancer cells that remain.
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Other Factors Affecting Prostate Cancer Treatment Cost
Apart from the type of surgery or treatment and the choice of technology, the following are some of the factors that affect the overall prostate cancer treatment cost:
Type of Hospital
There are several hospitals around the world that provide world-class medical treatment to patients. The greater the number and quality of services offered by the hospital, the expensive is the treatment at the hospital.
Therefore, the total cost of prostate cancer treatment that you have to pay actually depends on the level of services that you expect from the hospital. To be able to receive five-star services from the hospital, you must be willing to pay lavishly for it.
Experience of the Surgeon
Expertise and skills of the treating doctor matter a lot when it comes to successful treatment of any cancer type. It takes a lot of patience, courage, and knowledge to treat a cancer patient and this is the reason why the most experienced surgeons tend to charge a greater fee for their services.
However, that does not mean that all the experienced and qualified surgeons charge fees that an average patient cannot afford. There are many highly educated and skilled doctors for prostate cancer treatment that offer their services with an equal compassion at a reasonable rate. Therefore, one must try to find a credible doctor with required credential who charges a fee that a patient can afford.
Length of Stay at the Hospital
Cost of Accommodation, Food, and Local Travel
|Cost per Day|
Economic Analysis Of Various Radiotherapy Treatment Delivery Methods
Treatment techniques have evolved over the course of many years as a result of the technologic advancement. Improvements in treatment planning software as well as linear accelerators have allowed treatment techniques to transition from 2-dimensional treatment plans and techniques to 3-dimenesional treatment plans and then to IMRT. The increased work necessary for physicians, dosimetrists, and physicists needed to design and perform quality assurance resulted in increased reimbursement, both on the professional and technical sides. The development and implementation of IMRT was made possible by the further improvements in treatment planning software and linear accelerators, with the advent of multi-leaf collimators. IMRT treatment techniques, as reported elsewhere in this issue, made it possible to escalate the delivered radiotherapy dose while reducing both acute and late toxicity. The increased in delivered radiotherapy dose resulted in higher biochemical disease-free survival . IMRT was rapidly adopted as the standard of care in the treatment of prostate cancer because of these results without randomized clinical trials comparing IMRT to 3D conformal radiotherapy . Reimbursements for IMRT, however, were considerable higher when compared to 3DCRT dramatically increasing the overall cost of care for prostate cancer. Economic analyses using decision models were performed to provide evidence of cost-effectiveness of IMRT compared to 3DCRT.
Side Effects Of Ebrt For Prostate Cancer
Many of the possible side effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer involve the bladder and bowelthe prostate is very close to both. Although the goal is to target only the prostate with radiation, sometimes small amounts may cause problems to nearby areas of the body.
Some of the potential side effects from EBRT include:
- Bowel problems, including diarrhea, leakage or rectal bleeding
- Urinary symptoms, such as a need to urinate more frequently, incontinence or a burning sensation during urination
Ucla Researchers Find A Wide Variation In Costs To Treat Low
How much does it actually cost to treat low-risk prostate cancer?
Now, for the first time, UCLA researchers have described cost across an entire care process for low-risk prostate cancer from the time a patient checks in for his first appointment to his post-treatment follow-up testing using time-driven activity-based costing. And they found a wide variation in costs for the various available treatments that remained consistent over a 12-year period, indicating a better method to monitor costs could save valuable healthcare dollars, said study first author Dr. Aaron Laviana, a fifth year urology resident. This is the first study to truly investigate the costs of various treatments for prostate cancer over the long-term. As we move from traditional fee-for-service reimbursement models to accountable care organizations and bundled payments to curb growing health care expenditures, understanding the true costs of health care is essential, Laviana said. Traditional costing methods often lack transparency and can be arbitrary, preventing the true costs of a disease or treatment from being understood. This is important, as patients often receive a hospital bill with arbitrary charges that may or may not reflect their true treatment costs. This costing methodology creates an algorithm that allows organizations to assess their costs and see where they may be able to improve. Altogether, by maintaining similar quality, this will improve the overall value of care delivered.
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