Show me the research

A number of people have sent me this piece by Sam Baker:

[I]maging is central to a drop in cancer rates, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) argued Thursday.

“The proof lies in the statistics: advanced medical imaging promotes early detection and more effective treatment, ultimately saving lives,” MITA Executive Director Gail Rodriguez said in a statement. “It is critical that policymakers keep the evidence in mind when making future coverage decisions that will impact access to life-saving technologies.”

Cancer rates have fallen since the early 1990s and are continuing to fall for lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers, MITA said.

The group said new advances in CT scans have contributed to those declines.

Wow. There’s a lot going on here.

First of all, what rates are they talking about? It seems like they are referencing the prevalence of cancer. If that’s the case, how do they possibly think that getting scans is reducing the diagnosis of cancer? Imaging helps in that diagnosis. It makes it more likely that we will find cancer. So if the rates of cancer diagnosis are falling, how is imaging responsible?

If, on the other hand, they are referencing mortality rates, then it would be nice if someone made that clear. But even then, this is far from self-evident. I would love to see some of the “proof” and “statistics” that show that imaging is saving lives. I have no doubt that imaging is increasing early detection. I also don’t doubt that it’s increasing survival rates, for the same reason. But to claim that imaging is particularly responsible for a drop in mortality rates (which ain’t dropping as fast as we’d like) is brazen. It ignores advances in all other areas of care.

If the data are so clear, I’d like to see them. I can’t wait!


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