Patient with oral cancer finds hope in proton therapy

Posted by on Thursday, April 6th, 2017

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This is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. Click here to learn more about these types of cancer.

Before her cancer diagnosis, Holly Caster worked in hospitality at Beaumont Hospital in her Michigan hometown, coming up with creative ways to make patients’ stays more comfortable.

There was the flash mob she planned for a high school senior who’d been hospitalized and couldn’t go to prom. The laptop, CDs and company-keeping for a young pregnant woman confined to bed rest whose family lived 50 miles away. She gave cancer patients afghans in their favorite color. She planned in-hospital celebrations for weddings and anniversaries and new babies, all to help people cope as best they could when life dished up the unexpected.

Then the unexpected happened to her.

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Pro-proton therapy laws hit Tennessee Assembly

Posted by on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

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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.

 

 

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Provision experts featured at proton therapy conference

Posted by on Thursday, March 16th, 2017

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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.

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Conventional radiation for lung cancer damages heart

Posted by on Thursday, March 9th, 2017

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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.

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Pastor, movie producer meets cancer challenge

Posted by on Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

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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.

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Proton therapy helps prevent heart disease

Posted by on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

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If you ‘heart’ your ‘heart,’ a growing number of studies demonstrate that treating cancer with protons helps reduce the risk of heart disease due to radiation exposure. This is especially important for breast cancer patients, whose cardiovascular systems can suffer from conventional radiation spilling over into the heart and lungs.

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