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Study Compares Lung Cancer Radiation Treatments

Milder doses given over longer timespan are best value, researchers find

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- When given to ease pain and other complaints in patients with late-stage non-small cell lung cancer, a longer, less intense course of radiotherapy offers better value for the money than short-course intense treatment, concludes a study by Dutch researchers.

A previous study by the Leiden University Medical Center team compared a short course of two treatments of 8 gray (Gy) of radiation each, or a long course of 10 treatments of 3 Gy each. Patients who received the long course had more symptom improvement and improved one-year survival compared to patients who received the short course.

In this new study, the researchers analyzed the costs of the two treatment approaches to determine which one offered the best value for the money. They estimated the costs of treatment and related expenses, such as medical care for people who survived their cancer.

The estimated lifetime societal costs of the long-course radiation was $16,490, compared to $11,164 for the short-course -- a difference of $5,326. However, since the long-course radiotherapy offers improved survival, the added cost is acceptable by current economic standards, the study authors concluded.

"In our group of poor-prognosis non-small cell lung cancer patients, the additional costs of the protracted radiotherapy schedule were justified by longer survival rather than by improved quality of life," the researchers wrote.

The study is published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about non-small cell lung cancer.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Dec. 19, 2006
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