A new study suggests patients with cancer can expect to get better scans in the coming months as more doctors and surgeons are trained to use high-resolution CT scanners.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Annals of Surgery, looked at scans of the lungs, neck, lower body, spine and chest.
The researchers found patients with lung cancer were more likely to have the best scans than patients with breast cancer.
“We think it is important that we can provide our patients with the most accurate CT scan possible,” said study leader Dr. Jens Bergesen, a lung surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“It is also important that the CT scans are done in a way that is as sensitive as possible.”
Bergesens research was not intended to suggest patients should skip the surgery altogether.
“The goal is to improve our ability to provide the best possible imaging,” he said.
The new study looked at lung cancer patients from 2001 to 2008, the most recent year for which data were available.
Researchers looked at what the scans were looking for in a patient’s lungs and whether they showed evidence of disease, the type of cancer, whether they were on chemotherapy or radiation and how much time the patient had left to live.
The scans were then compared to images of the lung and other organs that had been obtained before the surgery.
The researchers found lung cancer scans were more accurate and less prone to showing abnormalities in the lung.
“These findings are important for the development of new imaging tools to assist in detecting lung cancer early in its progression and improve survival,” Bergeson said.
He said it is too soon to know whether CT scanners will be able to do the job.
Bergesons group recently partnered with researchers from the University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop an advanced CT scanner.
“We’re using new CT scanners to deliver the best image quality and the most detailed information we can get,” Bergsen said.
A new technology that can take a picture of a cancerous tumor and then send it to a doctor for a CT scan could save lives, but it still needs to be tested in clinical trials.
Bergsens group is working with a few companies to develop technology to help doctors perform the CT scan and then use a computerized tool to identify cancerous tissue in the image.
“That’s a long way away,” Berkesen said, but he thinks it is feasible.
He noted that the next step is testing whether the technology will be available for sale.
“I think we’ll be able … in the next few years,” he added.