Discontinuing the practice of drawing blood
every week from patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate
cancer can save time and money without jeopardizing the patients
care, a new study has found.
Researchers reviewed the charts of 89 patients treated for
nonmetastatic prostate cancer at the Veterans Administration Hospital
in Philadelphia. The patients had been treated with external-beam
radiation therapy; some also had undergone hormonal treatments.
Blood Counts Remained at Appropriate Levels
Radiation therapy reduces the bodys ability to produce blood
cells, said Kenneth Blank, MD, of the Hospital of the University of
Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical
Center. Because of that, it has been common practice for
patients undergoing treatment to have regular blood tests to see if
their white blood cell, hemoglobin, and platelet levels are
appropriate. Blood counts in these patients stayed within an
appropriate level throughout treatment, said Dr. Blank.
This strongly suggests that weekly blood count monitoring may
not be necessary. In fact, based on the results of this study, the
Veterans Administration Hospital no longer recommends weekly blood
count monitoring, saving about $30,000 per 100 treated patients,
he said. We recommend that patients have a blood count taken
when treatment begins. If it is normal, then we do not do another
blood count unless clinically indicated; ie, the patient has
symptoms, such as shortness of breath, bleeding, or infection, that
indicate a low blood count, said Dr. Blank.
The study was published in an April 1999 issue of the International
Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics.