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Study: PET Scans Often Influence Management Plan/Elderly Pts

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A recently published study finds that results from positron emission tomography (PET) scans often influence a physician’s intended management plan among elderly patients diagnosed with cancer. Full details of the study were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Many types of testing are involved in the diagnosis and evaluation of cancer as well as measuring its response to treatment. In some cases PET scans may be used to evaluate changes in cancerous cells that are often undetectable by X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scans. A PET scan receives its images by administering a radioactive substance to the patient that is then taken up by the cancer cells, allowing the radiologist to visualize areas of increase activity. A CT scan uses special X-ray equipment to provide cross-section pictures of organs and tissues of the body. In some situations these PET and CT may be combined for increased sensitivity. Currently, Medicare covers PET and CT scans if there is sufficient data on the patient’s cancer diagnosis to justify these tests. The National Oncologic PET registry (NOPR) ensures that this information is gathered and assesses how PET scans affect treatment decisions.

In the current study, the NOPR collected questionnaires from physicians regarding intended treatment plans for elderly patients diagnosed with cancer, before and after PET scanning. Conducted over a period of one year, 22,795 studies were collected from 1,178 medical centers within the United States. PET/CT scans were performed equally for the purpose of diagnosis, initial cancer staging, restaging after treatment, and to evaluate suspected cancer recurrence. Pancreatic, prostate, and ovarian cancer represented approximately 30% of the total cases.

Results of the study revealed that had PET scan results not been available, the physician would have chosen other imaging options.

PET scans appeared influential in treatment planning: after receiving PET scan results, treatment plans were changed to observation in 37% of cases and treatment was altered in 48% of cases.

Among patients with planned biopsies prior to PET scans, biopsy was avoided in 70% of cases.

If the pre-PET management plan included treatment, the post-PET plan involved a major change in type of treatment among 8.7% patients and a goal change in 5.6%.

Further analysis revealed that post-PET plans were three times more likely to lead physicians to treat patients rather than postpone treatment (28.3% versus 8.2%).

Overall results indicated that physicians changed their intended treatment plans in 36.5% of cases following PET scans.

Researchers concluded that PET scans frequently influence treatment strategies for elderly patients diagnosed with cancer.

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(CancerConsultants.com, Oncology Resource Center, May 8, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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