Spike In Imaging Visits, Breast Cancer Patients Burdened

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Photo courtesy: norwalkradiology.com

Richard Bleicher, M.D., a surgical Oncologist  with Fox Chase along with a team of researchers reported that between 1992 and 2005, the number of breast cancer patients who had to undergo multiple visits almost grew by four times. He points out this is an unnecessary burden for patients while presenting his group’s findings at the CTRC_AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The burden, apparently, shows no sign of slowing down. Mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRI scans run into days for breast cancer patients and both the number of patients and a full-set of scans involving imaging visits are going up steadily by the year.

At the first sign of symptoms, the patient first visits the doctor with a breast complaint. The last stage of therapy is usually a therapeutic surgery to kill the tumor. The whole operation should last an average of 37 days. Yet, Richard’s Fox Chase research team found that about 4.9 % of these breast cancer patients who were only diagnosed with “Invasive, non-metastatic cancer” had to undergo scans more than twice. This number only shot up to 19.4% by the year 2005. There were extreme cases reported where patients underwent scans more than 5 times during the pre-operative stage.

The repercussions for patients, understandably, are the increased cost of breast cancer care, the cost of imaging and scans, the therapy, etc. On an average, the overall cost for treating breast cancer can peak up to $50,000 or $100,000. A recent study USA Today/Kaiser Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health – as reported in ABCNews — reveals that over 33% of patients can’t afford to pay their medical bills and hence 43% skip treatments altogether. Further, 1 in 5 patients – with insurance – would have depleted their savings due to the costs of treatment.

A Forbes article “Too Many Mammograms” states that a woman can wait until age 50 for their first mammogram with exams every 2 years. The U.S Preventive Services task Force opines that too many mammograms at a young age can cause numerous false positives and barely has any real consequence on the actual decrease in deaths caused by breast cancer.

Breast cancer hits a woman square. Too many imaging visits only seems to be a burden as Richard from Fox Chase points out.



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