Follow-up imaging for women with non-metastatic breast cancer varies widely across the country, according to a new study led by researchers at UC San Francisco. Some patients go without the annual mammograms that experts recommend, while others with the same cancer diagnosis receive full-body scans that expose them to significant amounts of radiation and are not recommended by experts.
Researchers said they could find no patterns in the data to explain the variation in care, but they suspected that it reflected differences in the common practices adopted by particular hospitals or physician groups. Full-body scans are expensive, costing between $2,000 and $8,000, and can be burdensome for patients who have high-deductible insurance policies that expose them to annual healthcare costs of $6,000 to $8,000 a year.
“With skyrocketing medical costs, patients are having to take greater and greater responsibility for out-of-pocket expenses,” said UCSF’s Benjamin Franc, MD, MS, MBA, a professor in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, the Center for Healthcare Value, and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. “These patients already have cancer, so you don’t want to induce another cancer with radiation from unnecessary imaging.”
The study, published Friday, July 13, 2018,
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