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Rates, Costs of Imaging in Medicare Patients Have Risen

Imaging costs have outpaced rate of increase in total costs for cancer care in this population

TUESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- The use of diagnostic imaging in Medicare patients with cancer has increased, as have imaging costs, which are outpacing the rate of the increase in total costs among Medicare recipients who have cancer, according to research published in the April 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Michaela A. Dinan, of the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., and colleagues analyzed a 5 percent sample of U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services claims, which involved 100,954 incident cases of various cancers (incident breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) from 1999 to 2006. They examined changes in the use of imaging and the effect those changes had on the cost of cancer care.

The researchers found that the use of imaging increased among all the cancer types for positron emission tomography (35.9 to 53.6 percent), bone density studies (6.3 to 20 percent), echocardiograms (5 to 7.8 percent), magnetic resonance imaging (4.4 to 11.5 percent) and ultrasound (0.7 to 7.4 percent), while conventional radiograph rates decreased or remained stable. By 2006, beneficiaries with lung cancer and those with lymphoma incurred the highest overall imaging costs. In addition, the mean two-year imaging costs per Medicare recipient increased at a faster rate than did the mean total costs per recipient for all cancer types.

"In our study, the cost of cancer care increased 1.8 to 4.6 percent per year, with imaging growing at 5.1 to 10.3 percent per year. Thus, imaging represented a larger share of total costs in 2006 than in 1999," the authors write.

Two study authors disclosed financial ties to several pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

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