In America, prostate cancer patients suffer when profit comes first

It's a familiar story line in America: the type of medical care people receive suffers because doctors are pressured to put profit before patients. In this Businessweek article, a closer look at how many prostate cancer patients may not be receiving the optimal course of treatment for their disease, because care providers can bill more for certain forms of treatment. The article begins with the story of Max Calderon, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. His urologist recommended radiation therapy at a clinic in Salinas, CA. Calderon was 77 years old, lab tests suggested that his cancer had metastasized, and he was not the ideal candidate profile for the specific kind of treatment he was going to receive.

His urologist, Amir Saffarian, didn’t mention alternatives, Calderon said. So he made 47 trips to the clinic, 28 miles from his home, where medical technicians fired radiation beams at his prostate. Calderon said he never saw Saffarian there -- even though the urologist billed Medicare and Medicaid $30,000 for the treatment, his records show.

“The way they do their business, there’s something fishy going on,” Calderon said in an interview before his death in August at age 79, after the cancer metastasized.

Investigators with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are examining Calderon’s case history, and others, to see whether the Salinas clinic and doctors who send patients there are violating laws against making referrals chiefly for financial gain, according to people familiar with the matter.

Read the rest. Reminds me a lot of the PBS Frontline "Dollars and Dentists" documentary Miles O'Brien did recently.

(thanks, subatomicdoc!)


  1. The other problem with these IMRT therapy centers that Urology Groups create is that they often only have the minimal medical physicist supervision required by the regulators.  It probably isn’t a question of IF a bunch of people receive incorrect treatment as a question of WHEN it is going to happen…

    1. Yes it does.  I work with health care data every day, and unequivocally, this is true.  The current system makes it true.  Patients are dead.  I was going to write dead last, but might as well just say, “Patients are dead.”

  2. I used to be a data base administrator with an enormous prostate cancer study and when the economy hit the skids, the Congress gutted our study and they closed down all of the sites but one. All of us were given one month of severance pay and told to take a hike. A few months later, one of those people who voted to gut the study was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The irony drips.

    It took me 28 months to find a job and when I did, it was for roughly half what I was making and I’m now doing the same thing I was doing when working my way through college: Operating bindery equipment. I don’t like to wish bad things on people but it’s hard for me to wish the good Senator a speedy recovery.

  3. Diagnosed with prostate cancer at 49, I now know more about the disease than I ever wanted to know.  Most men will develop prostrate problems/cancer.  Usually this occurs later in life than in my case.  Doctors tend to over treat the problem.  Urologists generally recommend surgery, as they are surgeons, which removes the cancer with the side effects of impotence and incontinence.  This is the treatment I chose.  I still get the feeling, half hard, with no sticky stuff.  I’ve tried Viagra, hoping for a 3 1/2 hour erection, but that only gives me a headache.  I have an understanding bride of 32 years.  When the cancer metastasizes, beam radiation is the popular treatment. I consulted with a radiologist after my PSA numbers were still high after the prostatectomy.  Beam radiation treatment would be a 9 week, daily, treatment program.  It seems to me that the radiologist should have been paid more that the urologist.  Hey, if anyone has any questions about prostrate cancer and are afraid to ask, ask me.  I will give you the straight scoops and may get graphic.  
    For Xeni, I lost my sister to breast cancer.  She was 46, a loving mother of two, and an accomplished classical musician.  Lots of love.  I pray for you daily.

  4. Every aspect of America suffers when profit comes first. From elections to janitorial service, wherever the bottom line is the first and most important consideration, quality suffers. Quality of life, quality of service, civil rights, you name it. Corporate culture, the shielding of personal responsibility by corporate structures, and sociopathic greed are tearing the United States, and the world, to pieces. And it seems like it’s getting worse.

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