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PET Scans May Change Elderly Cancer Patient Management

Study shows intended management changed in about 37 percent of cases

THURSDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Physicians have changed their intended management of elderly cancer patients in about 37 percent of cases based on data from positron emission tomography (PET) studies, according to a report published online March 24 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Bruce E. Hillner, M.D., from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., and colleagues analyzed questionnaires from referring physicians on intended management of elderly cancer patients (65 years and older) before and after PET/computed tomography. The data included 22,975 studies from 1,178 centers.

The researchers found that PET changed the management of patients where other imaging would otherwise have been performed to watching in 37.2 percent of cases and treatment in 47.6 percent of cases. PET led to a switch from biopsy to no biopsy in about 70 percent of cases, a change in treatment type in 8.7 percent of cases and a change in goal in 5.6 percent of cases, and a greater likelihood of treatment than non-treatment (28.3 versus 8.2 percent, odds ratio 3.4). Overall, the intended management changed in 36.5 percent of cases after PET.

"This large, prospective, nationally representative registry of elderly cancer patients found that physicians often change their intended management on the basis of PET scan results across the full spectrum of its potential uses," Hillner and colleagues conclude.

The study and editorial authors report financial relationships to the medical and pharmaceutical industry.

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