Saturday, December 24, 2011

More pictures!

Are more pictures better? Back in the days of black and white cameras on tripods, a professional photographer would come and take a single posed shot of serious looking people dressed in black. After being hand developed a single picture was produced with no copies to send out to friends a relatives. Then personal cameras came into play and little towers of flash cubes were added on. Film was sent out to be developed and you crossed your fingers until they came back to hope that everything was in focus. You might take a couple to double your luck but still a lot was left up to chance. Then digital cameras came along and we clicked away like mad - shared them everywhere. Focus and aim become less important as quantity increases your odds for a good shot. All of our foibles in living color are available worldwide in this digital age.

In the world of medicine, photography, a/k/a imaging, has grown by leaps and bounds. Do you remember going to the hospital and you were offered an xray to see inside you before surgery? Now a single xray is replaced by ultrasounds, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs and more.  Is this better or not?

Recent studies (yes we needed more medical studies) showed that in the early 1990s approximately 5% of women had two or more imaging sessions prior to breast cancer surgery. In 2005, more than 20% had two or more imaging sessions. TThere have been significant advancements in medical technology since 1992 so there are many more pictures available. The theory is the more testing that is done the better the doctor is able to determine the course of treatment - whether for breast cancer or other ailments. But these additional tests come at a cost - both emotional and financial. Every trip back to the hospital for more tests is another emotional roller coaster and another dip into the financial hole.

Are they worth it? It seems the jury is still out on that one. They need another study to tell the doctors if the additional tests are worth while. The numbers have been analyzed on the quantity of tests but not on the outcomes. The current advice is that if your doctor sends you off for pictures, can the trips be combined so only have to take one trip and not two or more. Well that's a big help (not). I think they have plenty of pictures of my insides and outsides but somehow they always seem to want more.

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