Then & Now

A Tailored Approach to Patient Care

It’s no longer necessary to take a one-size-fits-all approach to patient care. Medical imaging can now be tailored to the individual patient, meaning more abnormalities are found early, fewer patients have to undergo follow-up screening, time and money are saved and needless worry can be avoided.

Examples

Twenty years ago, screening for breast cancer meant two things: two-dimensional x-ray mammograms and breast physical exams. Today, there more options that can be tailored to a woman’s unique needs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help detect early tumors in women with dense breasts. Ultrasound can distinguish benign, fluid-filled cysts from cancerous tumors. Positron emission mammography can spot cancers about the width of grain of rice and show how active the tumor is, which can help monitor the patient’s response to chemotherapy or find recurrences. Breast tomosynthesis and stereoscopic digital mammography (DM) provide 3D images that increase diagnostic accuracy and reduce false positives. Molecular breast imaging (MBI) can detect very small breast tumors, particularly in women with dense breasts.

Stroke kills 130,000 people in the United States each year, and is a leading cause of disability for those who survive. Nearly 90 percent of strokes are caused by blood clots. Clot-busting drugs can save lives and reduce disability – if they are administered within 4.5 hours of when symptoms appear. Now, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help physicians determine whether a stroke was caused by a blood clot, which is critical because clot busters can worsen symptoms—or kill—if a stroke has other causes. One study found that using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) altered treatment for 10 out of 23 patients with stroke. Another study calculated that nationwide net savings could range from $1-2 billion using CT to assign degrees of urgency to stroke patients’ conditions.