DURHAM, N.C. The cost of imaging studies in cancer patients covered by Medicare is growing at twice the rate of the overall costs of cancer care in that group, according to scientists in the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). A dramatic increase in PET scans is leading the way.
Imaging is the fastest growing expense for Medicare, but until now, it has not been analyzed as a specific component of care within the cancer population.
The study results appear in the April 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Duke researchers examined the use and costs of eight different imaging technologies among roughly 100,000 patients newly diagnosed with various types of cancer (breast, lung, prostate, colon, leukemia and lymphoma) between 1999 and 2006. They found that while overall 2-year costs per patient increased annually at a rate of 2 to 5 percent, the cost of imaging rose between 5 and 10 percent per patient. "Patients are undergoing more imaging studies. As newer, more expensive imaging technologies are used more frequently, the overall cost of imaging is going to increase", says Michaela Dinan, a doctoral student working in the DCRI and the lead author of the study.
Even though imaging costs are rising much more rapidly than the costs of overall cancer care, imaging costs comprise only 6 percent of the total Medicare medical budget for cancer patients, the authors say.
The use of PET scans (positron emission tomography) grew the fastest, according to Dinan. In each cancer type, the number of PET scans per beneficiary increased at a mean annual growth rate of 36 to 53 percent, however the total number of PET scans remained low.
PET scans, which reveal functional as well as anatomical information about tumors, are a relatively recent innovation, and only in the past few years have professional guidelines recommended they be used in the management of some cancers. PET sca
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Duke University Medical Center