Oncology imaging: Status indeterminate

Earlier this year, Health Imaging published an article with a title that might encapsulate the status of oncology imaging: “Dazed + Confused: Oncologic PET/CT baffles referring MDs.”

Oncology imaging is in a state of upheaval. Consider lung cancer screening. Early adopters, including the Veterans Affairs, are moving ahead with CT lung cancer screening. Yet, as the wheels of reimbursement inch forward, it seems apparent we are mired in muck. The patient pool for lung cancer screening could reach 94 million, according to a lung screening and surveillance task force, established by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery and led by medical professionals from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The prospect represents a massive undertaking.

Proponents note that implementing lung cancer screening is a multidisciplinary process, and that patient follow-up is often clouded by myriad gray areas. Currently, multiple efforts are underway to determine which patients are at the highest risk for lung cancer. Ultimately, these data may help clinicians better target screening.

Those gray areas, as well as the high costs of oncologic imaging and treatment, are one factor behind the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) focus on high-cost, low-yield strategies. Imaging dominated the society’s list of commonly used procedures not supported by evidence. ASCO advised physicians to avoid imaging in several specific scenarios.

The challenges of oncology imaging may be best illustrated by the prostate cancer detection and management process, which has taken a front and center place in comparative effectiveness research and may provide a litmus test for healthcare reform.

As imaging stakeholders work through these and other key issues, they need business intelligence to help them stay ahead of the economic, clinical and operational challenges that confront their practices.

RSNA is a great place to start, and the Health Imaging editorial team has compiled a preview of this year’s must-attend sessions in oncology imaging. If you can’t make the conference, our team will be at McCormick Place posting live online coverage from Nov. 25-30. The wrap-up will continue in our daily newsletter through December and in the January/February issue of Health Imaging magazine.    

Similarly, Health Imaging strives to provide comprehensive and essential business intelligence through daily newsletters and monthly topical portals that summarize top news and our bimonthly print magazine.

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Lisa Fratt, editor