They also suggest that the increase is due to the lack of evidence-based guidance on when the studies help prolong life or make determinations further treatment or hospice. To date, routine use of imaging is recommended only in stage IV patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver or lung to determine suitability for resection.
"Such discretionary decision-making, ie, the 'gray' area where recommendations are equivocal or nonexistent, is known to drive higher healthcare spending," the researchers wrote.
Additionally, the researchers discovered tremendous variability throughout the country, with patients in the top 10% receiving at least one scan per month during continuing care, and at least three in their last month of life.
"Imaging, although it often leads to (appropriate) palliative measures, may also distract patients from focusing on achievable end-of-life goals, require them to spend more of their limited time in medical care settings, and/or provoke anxiety."