Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown Faculty Member Publishes Article on PET scans

In the battle against cancer, doctors are always looking for new technology that will help them to treat their patients. One faculty member at Georgetown has contributed to the fight against the deadly disease with a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Bruce D. Cheson, director of Hematology Services at Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center, co-authored an essay discussing the effectiveness of Positron-Emission Tomography testing in the Feb. 2 edition of the journal. In the article, he highlighted the advantages that PET scans hold over other tests used in treatment as a reason for the recent expansion of their use.

“The primary advantages of PET scans are that they can distinguish between a mass [in the body] that is cancerous and one which is merely scar tissue,” Cheson said in an interview. “This is not the case for other scanning devices that are currently used.”

Cheson emphasized that, while PET scans can be instrumental in treating cancer, they are best used in tandem with other tests. He also pointed out that no serious treatment decisions can be made without a biopsy of the cancerous area.

“While PET scans are a tremendous aid, they are not perfect,” Cheson said. “They are best used in conjunction with [Computed Tomography] scans and no major treatment can begin without a biopsy.” CT scans are used to detect for cancer in patients.

PET scans are non-invasive tests conducted on patients believed to have cancerous masses in their bodies. Similar to CT scans, PET scans can show doctors whether an area of tissue is normal or cancerous.

In the past few years, many physicians have looked to PET technology as an innovation that will greatly improve cancer treatment.

While Cheson did admit that the high cost of PET scans is a reason why they are not more widely used, he also pointed out that the cost of the tests will go down as time passes.

“PET scans typically range between $1,000-2,000, which is several times more than a CT scan currently,” said Cheson. “However, over time the price of the scans will decrease.”

Cheson added that new technologies awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration could potentially replace PET scans, and that a newly introduced machine that combines PET testing and CT scans will revolutionize cancer treatment.

Cheson also emphasized that the use of PET scans only when necessary is paramount, and that their implementation does not devalue the importance of good clinical practices.

“Doctors have to be able to recognize when PET scans should be used,” Cheson said. “Even with the advent of PET scans, good clinical judgment is still the best tool we have [in treating cancer].”

Cheson’s essay was co-authored by Malik E. Juweid, a nuclear medicine physician at the University of Iowa. Cheson and Juweid are members of the Cancer and Lymphoma Group B committee, a group made up of leading cancer researchers from around the country.

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