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Imaging concerns

Study looks at unnecessary procedures for early-stage breast cancer patients

By Laura Sussman

 Carlos Barcenas, M.D.

More than a third of younger, early-stage breast cancer patients undergo unnecessary imaging procedures at the time of staging and diagnosis, according to an MD Anderson study funded by the Duncan Family Foundation. Carlos Barcenas, M.D., assistant professor in Breast Medical Oncology, presented the findings at the 2013 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December. Barcenas and the team also found regional differences in overuse trends, as well a higher rate of unnecessary procedures in women with PPO insurance coverage compared with those with HMO.

“While hypothesis-generating, our study is not without limitations,” says Barcenas.  “For example, we don’t know if the patients had a more aggressive pathology, or if they presented with clinical characteristics that called for more investigation. In some instances, there will be justification for the additional imaging procedures.”

 Sharon Giordano, M.D.

Sharon Giordano, M.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson’s Health Services Research, says the study sheds light on the issue of over-use and over-care and offers validation to physicians who choose not to order unnecessary tests.

“There’s been a shift in focus to doing what matters for the patient and what’s proven to improve outcomes, rather than testing for the sake of testing,” says Giordano, a professor in Breast Medical Oncology and the study’s senior author. “Our goal is to bring the best and most valuable care to our patients.”

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