About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Radiation for cancer? Not as often

Most of the speakers at last Friday’s public hearing on the proposed cancer center at Mary Washington Hospital talked of choice and competition, of access and continuity of care. Dr. Christopher Walsh was the exception. He talked about cancer.

Walsh, right, is a radiation oncologist and former medical director at Mary Washington’s Cancer Center of Virginia on State Route 3. He’s now a competitor, as the owner of the Mid-Rivers Cancer Center, a radiation treatment center in Montross.

WalshWalsh opposes adding a second cancer center and third linear accelerator at Mary Washington. One of his reasons is the declining percentage of new cancer patients who are being treated with external beam radiation.

“Radiation treatments peaked in the U.S. in 2002 and have declined across the U.S. and Virginia since then,” he said.  “Current data show that fewer than 30 percent of new cancer cases require external radiation.”

Cancers of the lung, breast and bone are among those showing declines in radiation use, Walsh said. In some cases, patients are receiving chemotherapy instead of radiation. In other cases, they’re receiving fewer radiation treatments but higher doses with each treatment.

Walsh argued against adding capacity when the use of radiation is declining.  “It certainly argues for caution,” he said. “Why would we be duplicating extremely expensive technology at a time when the nation is demanding cost controls.”

A story about Friday’s public hearing can be found here.