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Weekly Blood Monitoring Unnecessary During Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Weekly Blood Monitoring Unnecessary During Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Discontinuing the practice of drawing blood every week from patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer can save time and money without jeopardizing the patient’s 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 body’s 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.

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