Article Abstract

Preferential use of imaging modalities in staging newly diagnosed rectal cancer: a survey of US radiation oncologists

Authors: Jehan Belal Yahya, Matthew Joseph Farrell, Daniel O. Herzig, Catherine R. Degnin, Yiyi Chen, John Holland, Simon Brown, Jerry Jaboin, Charles R. Thomas Jr, Timur Mitin


Background: Accurate staging is crucial for management of patients with newly diagnosed rectal cancer. Endorectal ultrasound (EUS) has been the standard modality in the United States for decades, with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) now preferred by national guidelines. Positron emission tomography (PET), conversely, is not recommended. The current utilization of imaging modalities by American radiation oncologists in staging newly diagnosed rectal cancer is unknown.
Methods: American radiation oncologists completed an anonymous institutional review board-approved online survey probing their imaging preferences for initial staging of rectal cancer patients.
Results: We received 220 responses from American radiation oncologists, with 39% in academic centers and with 45% seeing more than 10 rectal cancer patients per year. Most respondents utilize all three imaging modalities for rectal cancer staging—EUS, MRI and positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT). Fifty-two percent and 38% of respondents are high utilizers of EUS and MRI, respectively, defined as ordering these tests at least 75% of the time. Forty seven percent were high PET utilizers. The latter was associated with practice in a private setting (P=0.015) and being within 10 years from residency training completion (P<0.01).
Conclusions: Our analysis reveals a dramatic discordance among national guidelines and the practice patterns among American radiation oncologists. More rely on PET for initial staging of rectal cancer patients than on pelvic MRI. Further research needs to determine the most effective imaging work-up of patients with an initial diagnosis of rectal cancer.

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