Better access to imaging would save lives, Lancet report says

Better access to imaging would save lives, Lancet report says

By Emily Hayes, contributing writer

March 5, 2021 — Better access to medical imaging in low and middle-income countries would save almost 2.5 million lives lost to cancer, according to a new report presented at the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) by the Lancet Oncology Commission on Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine.

The Lancet Oncology Commission on Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine presented its findings from a major research effort on global health disparities on March 4 at ECR 2021. It’s vital to get governments to scale up imaging infrastructure, said Dr. Hedvig Hricak, PhD.

Founded in 2018, the commission has been examining access to cancer diagnostics and treatment around the globe. This effort involved collection and extensive analysis of data from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine Global Resources Database.

The data show substantial differences in access to imaging between high- and low-income countries, with workforce inequities as a big factor behind the disparities.

Researchers used the data to model the potential effects of scaling up access to imaging services globally. They concluded that adequate access to imaging could prevent 2.5 million out of a total of 76 million cancer-related deaths between 2020 and 2030. This would save 54.9 million life-years, they concluded.

Furthermore, better access to imaging — as well as better treatment and care quality — could save 232.3 million life-years, according to the commission’s findings.

Dr. Hedvig Hricak, PhD

Dr. Hedvig Hricak, PhD.

“The aim of the Commission was to provide data and guidance to catalyze sustainable improvement of medical imaging and nuclear medicine services for cancer management, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries,” explained lead commissioner Dr. Hedvig Hricak, PhD, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City.

Approximately 80% of the disability-adjusted life years lost to cancer are in low and middle-income countries, where only about 5% of the global funding for cancer control and care is applied. Imaging is essential to provide timely diagnosis, appropriate treatment selection and planning, and optimal outcomes for patients with cancer, the new report emphasizes.

“Now we need to get governments and funding bodies on board to work together on scaling up imaging infrastructure” in low and middle-income nations, Hricak added.