Cancer Treatment Centers of America: Billfold Biopsies and Skewed Data

This company has claimed better results from their treatment approach.  If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

It turns out their approach is to not accept patients unless their insurance is “preferable.”  They minimize Medicare and Medicaid patients in their population—unlike other facilities.  They arbitrarily don’t accept certain patients.  They don’t report on patients who do not receive all their treatment at their facility.  As a result when they report outcomes the results are skewed by small numbers and careful patient selection.  They are under pressure to change as noted in the article.

Hilborn had seen CTCA’s website touting survival rates better than national averages. His call secured Vicky an appointment at the for-profit, privately held company’s Philadelphia affiliate, Eastern Regional Medical Center. There, the oncologist who examined Vicky told the couple he had treated other cases of histiocytic sarcoma, the cancer of immune-system cells that she had.

“He said, ‘We’ll have you back on your feet in no time,'” Keith recalled.

Vicky’s cancer treatment was forestalled by an infection and other complications that kept her at Eastern Regional for three weeks. In July 2009, when she got back home, things changed. Despite Keith’s calls, he said, CTCA did not schedule another appointment. As his wife got sicker, Keith, a former deputy sheriff in western Pennsylvania, was reduced to begging.

Read the article to get the full flavor of this type for profit beast. 

Medicynical Note:  What’s missing is an accounting of cost of treatment at this facility that provides “free transport” and limos to their hospitals.  It’s little wonder that medical care is bankrupting us.  More on this in Brill’s recent Time essay

In fact there is no magic in cancer treatment.  The reality, bad cancers that have spread have bad outcomes, with few exceptions.

No this is not the “gospel of hope,” but it is the truth.

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