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How to Bring Down the Burgeoning Costs of Cancer Imaging

How to Bring Down the Burgeoning Costs of Cancer Imaging

Diagnostic imaging consumes about 3.6% of the total health care dollars nationally ($80 billion), and is growing steadily at about 18% per year. Cancer Care & Economics (CC&E) recently spoke with Brian Baker about this issue. Mr. Baker, vice president, Regents Health Resources, Inc., Brentwood, Tennessee, is a nationally recognized expert on developing and managing medical imaging services.

CC&E: Are we making progress developing radiotherapies that cause less damage to healthy tissue?

MR. BAKER: Absolutely. Accuracy is the key to optimizing patient outcomes. Advances in today's imaging technologies are being integrated into radiotherapy, and dramatically improving its accuracy.

In addition, we are seeing more interest in and utilization of particle, or proton, therapy. In its current form, particle therapy causes less collateral damage than traditional radiotherapy.

But the future is even more exciting. Pencil beam scanning is about 3 years away. It will further increase accuracy and reduce the time required to plan the therapy. It works by giving the radiotherapist precise control of a very small beam.

CC&E: Proton therapy units cost upward of $125 million. How can a medical facility expect a return on such a huge investment?

MR. BAKER: There are options now to get systems implemented more easily. Ion Beam Applications (IBA) of Belgium just won a $30 million contract for the first single-gantry proton therapy system in the United States. That's easier to swallow than $125 million for a four-gantry proton therapy center.

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