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Petereit on Brachytherapy, Cancer Disparities, and National Recognition

Aug 21, 2019 07:00AM ● By Alyssa McGinnis

Radiation Oncologist Daniel Petereit, MD, of the Regional Health John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute in Rapid City, a long-time advocate of the radiotherapy technique known as brachytherapy, was recently installed as the new president of the American Brachytherapy Society. 

Many also know Petereit as the brains behind the NIH-funded cancer disparity project, Walking Forward, now in its 17th year. 

These two facts are more closely-related than they may, at first, seem. 

“There is a direct relationship between cancer disparities and brachytherapy,” says Dr. Petereit. “If you have prostate cancer and want a non-surgical approach, you could be looking at daily radiation for two months. That is hard if you live three hours away, as many people in rural areas do.”

Prostate brachytherapy, says Petereit, takes just 45 minutes and offers some of the best cure rates at the lowest cost. The treatment is even more critical for cervical cancer patients. 

“If cervical cancer patients don’t have access to brachytherapy, their cure rates are cut in half,” says Petereit. “With breast cancer, if it is caught early, brachytherapy can dramatically shorten the course of external beam radiation. Again, that can make all the difference for rural patients.”

Despite the statistics, brachytherapy utilization is declining nationally. Petereit is hoping to help revive it with a national initiative to recruit and train 300 new brachytherapists in the next decade. 

At the same time, Walking Forward, now a joint Regional and Avera program, continues to gain momentum. The latest iteration is a lung cancer screening program aimed at identifying and screening 1,000 at-risk West River patients with Low-Dose CT in the next two years. 

After Walking Forward was recognized in the prestigious Journal of Oncology Practice earlier this year, Petereit was paid an unexpected visit by the incoming president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology who went on to mention Walking Forward in her presidential address. 

“Walking Forward has begun to gain a regional and national reputation,” says Petereit. “And it is good to connect with people who have connections.” 

Read More about the JOP article mention of Walking Forward 

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