Imaging not exempt as evidence roundup shows extent of ‘care overkill’

Five years ago the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) advised clinicians not to order advanced imaging or tumor marker tests for survivors of early-stage breast cancer. Yet the exam orders keep coming.

Just this past June, researchers presented findings at ASCO’s annual meeting showing that 37 percent of these patients underwent screening for tumor markers in recent years, while 16 percent were sent for advanced imaging.

Not a one had a lump or any other symptoms of recurrence.

Kaiser Health News has the story on this, along with plenty more data and anecdotal evidence pointing to the persistence of “overkill” across U.S. healthcare in both treatment and testing.

Going by the article’s central focus, the problem—of which imaging is a high-profile part—seems to be especially acute when it comes to dealing with cancer.

The piece points to a National Cancer Institute study estimating that 2 percent of all cancers in the United States could be caused by medical imaging.

It also homes in on radiation therapy for breast cancer, which is being doled out in long regimens despite 7-year-old clinical evidence showing that a condensed course works just as well.

“We tend in the health care system to be pretty slow in abandoning technology,” Bruce Landon, MD, MBA, of Harvard Medical School tells KHN reporter Liz Szabo. “People say, ‘I’ve always treated it this way throughout my career. Why should I stop now?’”

To read the article, headlined “So Much Care It Hurts: Unneeded Scans, Therapy, Surgery Only Add To Patients’ Ills,” click here.