People who have undergone chemotherapy know there’s nothing pleasant about this process. When it works, the associated discomforts and side effects are well worth the efforts. When it doesn’t, that realization can just compound the issues cancer patients face. Hoping to make sure chemotherapy administered is more effective for patients – or adjusted quickly if it’s not – researchers have developed a screen that can tell if prescribed chemo is having the desired effect after a single round.
The new screening procedure involves a combination of a PET and CT scan. It is hoped to improve the decisions clinicians make in regard to treating head and neck cancers. It may also offer help in other forms of the disease, as well.
The combined PET and CT scans, researchers have found, are able to more accurately measure a tumor’s use of energy and its ability to transform glucose in the body into fuel cancer cells can use. The screen is so sensitive it can tell after a single round of chemo if the drugs being administered are beginning to take a toll on cancer cells. This is especially important in treating head and neck cancers since these forms of the disease are known for being rather difficult to tackle. Doctors need a way to see almost immediately if therapy is working so they can make rapid adjustments in treatment, if necessary.
A recent study related to the combined scans showed very promising results. Combined scans were compared with MRI scans for patients. The scans were taken prior to treatment and two weeks after each round of chemo. The results showed the combined scans were able to more readily detect changes in glucose scoring versus the MRIs. Clinicians say this finding is important because the combined scans can help doctors more readily determine if the course of treatment they’ve selected is likely to improve outcome chances.
How soon the combined scans might be offered on a more widespread basis remains unclear. In the meantime, people who are diagnosed with head and neck cancers are urged to work closely with their doctors to select treatment methods and track their potential results.