Imaging Rates Scrutinized; Conclusions Mixed

Cheryl Clark, August 6, 2012

Older Medicare beneficiaries with a diagnosis of stage IV cancer receive expensive advanced imaging tests at steadily increasing rates, despite limited proof of benefit.

That's according to a study in the Journal of the American Cancer Society July 30 by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the University of Wisconsin Surgical Outcomes Research Program.

During the study, these tests, which included CT, MRI, PET (positron emission tomography), and nuclear medicine scans, continued to increase even after the patients were scanned to determine that they had reached stage IV.

"Although many of these procedures occurred during the diagnostic phase...the majority did not," wrote lead author Caprice C. Greenberg, MD, director of the Wisconsin program, and colleagues. "Three-quarters of patients were scanned during the continuing care phase; on average, including patients who had no tests, patients were scanned every 6 weeks."


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