A New Study discusses The Increasing Use Of High-Tech Imaging Scans On Cancer Patients.

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According to a new study, the use of high-technology imaging scans on older cancer patients has ct_scan_devicesignificantly increased in recent years, leading to a raised concern about radiation exposure and costs of these procedures. The study noted that lung cancer patients, for instance, diagnosed in 2006 had on average of six CT scans in the next two years, while patients diagnosed with the same type of cancer in 1999 had four scans only. The study was reviewing scans carried out by devices such as CT and PET. Both procedures are involving much higher radiation exposure levels than conventional x-ray. Moreover, these procedures are used for several other purposes such as detect injuries and treatment of other diseases. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although the over-use of high-tech imaging scans on cancer patients is still uncertain. Dr. Kevin Schulman, from Duke University researcher and a study author, said money might be a reason for such over-use. Since Medicare pays more to the doctors for using such scans than for less complex procedures. Hospitals and doctors offices equipped with scans also get relatively more Medicare payments for using the technology. However, despite these high-tech scans offers better detailed images than conventional X-rays; the study was not assessing whether the elevated use of these scans has enhanced the overall survival rates of cancer patients or not. Yet, several small studies suggested that these scans can improve treatment but they are laking evidence on how they enhance survival.

Eric Hoffman, a spokesman for the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition, a group representing scan makers, questioned the role of high-tech scanning in improving the survival rates in cancer patients. He also questioned the industry-sponsored studies suggesting that such scans have a role in reducing the mortality rates of cancer in the United States. The study reviewed data that showed that lung cancer or lymphoma patients in 2006 had the largest imaging costs; these costs were more than an average of $3,000 per patient during two years. While Dr. Jane Weeks, a health outcomes researcher at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, commented on these findings saying that "it's hard to say whether this represents a good or bad use of taxpayer dollars," Moreover, Schulman said that the costs of using these scans on cancer patients were exceeding the total costs of cancer care in Medicare patients. Schulman explained that this is a caused by the fact that these scans are getting more expensive and are performed more frequently. He added that radiation exposure, while carrying out these scans, can result in cancer many years later. Hence, he said that the excessive amounts of radiation are something to worry about.

The study also noted that the use of PET scans increased significantly from a 6-fold to 14-fold according to cancer type. Medicare started to cover these imaging procedures for cancer patients during the study period. PET includes the injection of a radioactive material to determine the location and activity of cancer cells. The procedure uses the same type of high-tech X-ray imaging used in CT scans, and is nearly costing the double of CT scans. The CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Allen Lichter, said that PET scans offers valuable information, such as determining if  a lymph node is swollen due to an infection or cancer, and that it is not surprising that the use of PET is increasing. He added that this study was under estimating the importance of research to assess if the increases are warranted. Dr. Lichter concluded "so we can sort this out with science instead of conjecture."