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VHA System in United States Provides Better Cancer Care

VHA provides earlier diagnosis, more curative surgery, and better cancer therapy than Medicare

WEDNESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system in the United States provides similar or better care for older men with cancer than fee-for-service Medicare, although some new technologies are less available, according to a study published in the June 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Nancy L. Keatin, M.D., M.P.H., from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues compared the quality of cancer care provided by the VHA versus fee-for-service Medicare in men older than 65 years who were diagnosed with cancer between 2001 and 2004. The participants were followed up through 2005, during which time rates of processes of care for colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer, or lymphoma or multiple myeloma were measured.

The investigators found that, compared to the fee-for-service Medicare population, men in the VHA population were diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer at significantly earlier stages. They also had significantly higher adjusted rates of curative surgery for colon cancer, standard chemotherapy for diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and bisphosphonate therapy for multiple myeloma. The adjusted rates between groups were similar for nine process measures and lower for three-dimensional conformal or intensity-modulated external radiation therapy for prostate cancer in the VHA population.

"Care for older men with cancer in the VHA system was generally similar to or better than care for fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries, although adoption of some expensive new technologies may be delayed in the VHA system," the authors write.

The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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