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39 percent of high-risk prostate cancer patients not getting scanned

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | February 21, 2011
Imaging resources for prostate cancer appear to be badly managed, with too many low-risk patients receiving advanced imaging scans and too few high-risk patients undergoing the tests, according to a new study.

A poster presented at ASCO's Genitourinary Cancers Symposium found that more than one-third of low-risk prostate cancer patients (39 percent) and about half of intermediate-risk patients received PET, CT or MRI scans. However, the chances of the imaging uncovering cancer outside the prostate is less than 1 percent in the low-risk patients, said lead researcher Dr. Sandip Prasad, a urologic oncology researcher at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

"We think that the percentage of patients getting these exams should be 0 percent," he told Medpage Today.
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Intermediate-risk patients also shouldn't receive the costly exams, Prasad said.

More worrisome, though, was the percentage of high-risk patients who should have been getting the scans but weren't. According to the study, which examined records of thousands of men reported in the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results Medicare database, about 39 percent of high-risk patients didn't undergo the advanced imaging tests.

"All of these men should have received the tests," said Prasad.

Prasad reckoned that the cost of the unnecessary tests among the more than 30,000 men in the SEER database could have been close to $35 million, almost one-tenth the budget set aside for prostate cancer research at the National Cancer Institute.

In the study, 9,640 men had low-risk prostate cancer, 12,966 had intermediate-risk and 7,577 men had high-risk cancer.

The findings were presented at ASCO's GU conference, which ran from Feb. 17 to 19 in Orlando, Fla.