A study released in 2011 has prompted Medicare to initiate coverage for some long-term smokers so that they can have a diagnostic scan performed to detect cancer. The findings of the study indicated that lung cancer-related deaths could decrease by about 20 percent with the use of a technique known as a spiral CT scan. Despite the findings, however, some doctors hesitate to perform the scans on their patients.
According to the research, approximately 150,000 people die from lung cancer annually in the United States. Supporters of the use of the spiral CT scan suggest that thousands of people suffering from the condition could benefit from the technique. Though the early identification of cancerous conditions can benefit the patient, some doctors feel that the technique may cause some patients to undergo unnecessary risks. Not all cancers advance into life-threatening conditions, and not all signs of abnormal growths indicate cancer, say some medical experts.
Nonetheless, when results of spiral CT scans suggest any abnormalities, the patient will likely be recommended for additional testing, including biopsies, which could put the patient at additional risk. For example, a needle biopsy could possibly result in a collapsed lung. Performing such additional testing on non-life-threatening conditions suggests that spiral CT scans might produce more harm than benefit for some patients. In addition, the radiologists interpreting the scans in the study worked under conditions that would not necessarily be found in general health care settings. This could affect the incidence of recommended follow-up biopsies for patients that show abnormalities of the lung.
If an injury occurs while under a doctor’s care, the patient may want to consult with a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice. The lawyer might be able to determine if the patient could seek compensation for the injuries.