Experts: Medical imaging a powerful tool in cancer treatment and research

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Medical imaging advancements are greatly improving cancer diagnosis and care, according to experts yesterday at a Capital Hill briefing. The event was coordinated by US Oncology and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and played host to Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chair of the House of Representatives Cancer Care Working Group, along with other experts in the field.

The event focused on the growing use of medical imaging, combined with pharmaceutical therapies, to diagnose and treat cancer earlier and more precisely. The use of the technology can also help patients avoid surgery in some instances.

"A comprehensive approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment has a tremendous impact on patients across the entire nation," said Congressman Rogers. "With emerging research continually pointing to imaging as a crucial part of that care continuum, ensuring that all Americans can access quality imaging services is absolutely essential."
   
Though each year there are 1.4 million new cancer diagnosis in the United States, the National Cancer Institute states that there are currently 10 million U.S. cancer survivors, which is a considerable increase from 1971 when data indicates there were just 3 million. Other good news: cancer mortality in this county has gone down 7 percent.

"Imaging is allowing doctors today to treat patients in ways never thought possible," said Lloyd Everson, MD, chairman, US Oncology, a provider of community-based cancer care services. "Where once a physician may have relied upon invasive surgery to detect, diagnose or stage a tumor, today's imaging allows us to unobtrusively screen, diagnose and stage cancers, precisely guide treatment to preserve healthy surrounding tissue and even determine if a given treatment is working," he added.

Coinciding with the event is a new white paper just released called “Medical Imaging in Cancer Care: Charting the Progress.” The white paper is an evaluation of how advances in cancer treatment impacts patient care and boosts the economy. The paper covers a number of key areas, including:

  • Medical imaging allows for a number of much less-invasive, highly targeted cancer therapies that translate into better and more comfortable care for patients;
  • Imaging is now a major component of comprehensive oncology care, which can determine the presence or spread of cancer in addition to visualizing a patient's response to therapy. Imaging also helps ensure that radiation is delivered accurately;
  • Since medical imaging makes cancer care more efficient, that translates into greater efficiency for the health system in general providing cost savings for both facilities and patients;
  • From the broader economic view, since medical imaging reduced time in cancer care, workers miss less time at their jobs;

Speaking on behalf of NEMO, Joe Hogan, president and CEO of GE Healthcare called imaging one of the single most important technologies ever invented.

"In many cases, cancer and other diseases can be successfully treated if a physician can detect and treat it early,” Hogan said. “I'm proud to say that imaging devices have contributed dramatically to the improvement in cancer care, advancements such as combined PET/CT imaging allows physicians to see cancer earlier, localize and personalize treatment, and carefully monitor that treatment," he added.