While it doesn’t get lots of headlines, ribbons or cancer walks in its honor, colon cancer is a leading health threat for both men and women and the second top cause of cancer related death in the United States.
When Hal Livergood came to Provision for treatment of his prostate cancer, he was impressed by the brand new facility—“like coming into a resort,” he says. His doctor and personal research told him protons were the best treatment option for his disease.
There was just one problem.
“My doctor said, ‘You need to lose weight,’” Livergood says. Otherwise, treatment would not be an option. Read More
Three bills aimed at helping patients get better insurance coverage for proton therapy are making the rounds of committees in Nashville this week, and Provision is urging patients and their friends and families to get involved.
For too many, trying to obtain the best treatment has brought them to blows with their insurance companies.
That was the case for Alexa Gash, who at 29 was diagnosed with throat cancer. Her father had recently suffered from the same diagnosis, and on the advice of the family’s physician, the couple began researching proton therapy. Because of Alexa’s age, they wanted to find a treatment that would be most effective but also spare her from unwanted long-term side effects. With conventional radiation, she risked permanent damage to her salivary glands, taste buds and teeth as well as the potential need for a feeding tube during and post-treatment due to a painful condition called mucositis caused by the excess radiation dose delivered outside of the tumor.
But, although Gash was determined a good candidate for proton therapy, her insurance company, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, disagreed and denied her request for coverage. The company designated her treatment “experimental” and denied appeals to reconsider her case based on the potential ramifications of conventional radiation therapy.
Even though Medicare has covered proton therapy for more than 20 years and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines support proton therapy in the treatment of head and neck cancer, BlueCross simply said “No.”
In recognition of the gap in coverage and the beneficial impact that proton therapy can have for cancer patients, several legislators have introduced several bills in the Tennessee General Assembly that would require insurance companies to cover proton therapy under specified conditions at no additional cost to the insurance companies. They include:
• House Bill 0883 (Rep. John Holsclaw) & Senate Bill 0210 (Sen. Dr. Mark Green): Requires the state group health insurance program to cover hypofractionated proton therapy for treating cancer under certain conditions.
• House Bill 0523 (Rep. Bob Ramsey) & Senate Bill 0367 (Sen. Doug Overbey): Requires health insurance coverage to cover hypofractionated proton therapy in the same manner as it covers intensity modulated radiation therapy under certain conditions.
• House Bill 0899 (Rep. Mark Pody) & Senate Bill 0758 (Sen. Mae Beavers): Prohibits certain health benefit plans that provide coverage for cancer therapy from holding proton radiation therapy to a higher standard of clinical evidence for medical policy benefit coverage decisions than the health plan requires for coverage of any other radiation therapy treatment.
Currently, the insurance company lobby is fighting the legislation in spite of this increased support for proton therapy in both research and legislative circles, as well as the growing development of proton therapy centers around the world. Instead, they wear out their own insureds with an endless appeal process forcing frustrated patients, their families and healthcare providers to seek redress in the courts or the legislature.
Over the coming days and weeks, the bills will be heard in the Joint Pensions and Insurance Committee chaired by Chattanooga’s Sen. Bo Watson, the Senate Finance and Labor Committee chaired by Franklin’s Sen. Jack Johnson and the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Kelly Keisling from Pickett County, Tennessee. Sen. Johnson has previously spoken out in favor of proton therapy in publicly supporting the development of Tennessee’s third proton center in his district.
Find out more about how to contact your legislator and help promote these proton therapy bills.
Three years after Provision opened the doors of its proton therapy center, awareness and demand for the treatment are growing—as is evidence of its effectiveness in treating various cancers, including prostate cancer and breast cancer.
At the National Association for Proton Therapy conference last week, Provision was well represented as employees spoke about ways technology, marketing and research are continuing to help boost proton therapy’s presence and use in providing quality care. Read More
Note: This is the first in a monthly series of blogs that will be authored by Dr. Ben Wilkinson, radiation oncologist and medical director for Provision Center for Proton Therapy. Dr. Wilkinson will cover a variety of topics related to proton therapy treatment and cancer care.
For some years now, the damage conventional radiation can do to the hearts of breast cancer patients has been documented in the medical literature.
Now, we’re seeing the same effects in lung cancer patients. Read More
In the last blog, we talked about staying physically healthy as you age. There are also our minds to think about—and healthy psychological aging is just as important as staying physically fit.
Our mental attitude has a far-reaching impact on our health. As we think, so follows our attitude. In other words, if we dwell on negatives, real or imagined, more negatives will be our focus. However, if we dwell on positives, we are more likely to see the good around us. Read More
From carney kid to cancer survivor, life hasn’t followed a predictable trajectory for Jim McBride. Nonetheless, this businessman turned pastor and movie producer sees divine purpose in every step.
McBride, a pastor and producer of several popular Christian movies including Fireproof and Facing the Giants, recently completed treatment for prostate cancer at Provision Center for Proton Therapy.
Nobody wants cancer, but in the U.S. one in every two men and one in every three women will get it at some point in their lives.
February is National Cancer Prevention month, and although there are no guarantees—we all know those who have developed the disease through circumstances beyond their control—science has shown us that many cancer cases are preventable through practical, healthy lifestyle choices.
The Harvard School of Public Health estimates up to 75 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented, while the American Cancer Society declares about 60 percent of American cancer cases to be preventable. Read More
When his boss sent out an email encouraging those in the Provision medical physics department to participate in an international treatment planning competition, Kevin Kirby decided to give it a shot.
Sponsored by ProKnow, a radiation analytics and quality assurance company, the assignment of creating a radiation treatment plan for a head and neck cancer case attracted more than 200 entries.
In the final results, Kirby’s entry ranked 21st among 238 treatment plans, and first among proton therapy entries.
“A perfect score was 150,” said Kirby, a medical dosimetrist at Provision Proton Therapy Center. “I got 144.” The top score was 146.9.
He is the second Provision employee to place high in the ProKnow competition, known as the QADS Plan Study. Samantha Hedrick, a medical physicist, achieved third place out of 124 entries in 2013.
ProKnow develops and sells software to “help improve the standard of care in radiation oncology” through analytical tools and databases that help customers measure and track their planning efforts with a goal of identifying best practices for treating a variety of diseases.
The plan Kirby submitted was scored on a scale of 20+ criteria categories, with the ultimate goal of providing the most dose to the tumor versus the least dose to the surrounding, healthy parts of the body.
Kirby credited his treatment modality, proton therapy, with giving him an edge over competitors using conventional radiation treatment methods.
Proton therapy is particularly suited to treatment of head and neck cancer, because “you are dealing with some very critically sensitive areas to radiation, such as the spine and brain,” Kirby said. “Proton therapy is just one of the top ways to treat one of the most difficult areas to get to in the body.”
“Kevin is an outstanding dosimetrist. Along with the rest of our staff, Kevin’s knowledge and work ethic has kept Provision’s planning capabilities at the forefront of radiation therapy,” said Ben Robison, Provision director of medical physics.
Kirby’s high score got him a phone interview with ProKnow in which he was asked about his personal background and more details about his planning methods. ProKnow is making the interview available via its website. Ranking so high among other treatment plans is quantitative validation that proton therapy and, specifically, the medical care at Provision, is best-in-class, he said.
“There’s a lot of hyperbole,” Kirby said. “This is a blind, metric product that shows our treatment is one of the best in the world. It just validates what we’re doing here.”
Aging is a fact of life. So let’s talk about how to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, making the most of our years. “Age is just a number.” On our Tanita scale it gives us a health age. It is very encouraging when that’s younger than our chronological age. However, it doesn’t take our blood pressure or cholesterol or stress level or sleep habits or lifestyle into account. It does, in fact, consider your weight, your percent of body fat, and your waist circumference. Now is a wonderful time to consider how your lifestyle can help improve your chronological age and improve your future. Read More