Head and neck tumours once treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, usually need an operation in order to check visually whether the tumour has gone. The operations patients undergo last 3 hours and take at least a week of recovering in hospital. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found 80% of the 564 patients studied could have not undergone surgery but rather had a scan instead.
PET-CT scans use radioactive dye which is taken in by rapidly dividing cancer cells. Through this method it can be determined whether the cancer cells are still active without the need for surgery.
The study conducted by the University of Birmingham and University of Warwick saw survival rates between those who underwent surgery and those who had the PET-CT scan to be the same. Only one in five patients required an operation to remove cancerous tissue.
Professor Arnie Purushotham of Cancer Research UK said " this is a really important study and if long-term follow-up confirms these results, this imaging technique could mean kinder treatments for patients."
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