Medical imaging and nuclear medicine: a Lancet Oncology Commission

Lancet Oncol. 2021 Apr;22(4):e136-e172. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30751-8. Epub 2021 Mar 4.


The diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancer requires access to imaging to ensure accurate management decisions and optimal outcomes. Our global assessment of imaging and nuclear medicine resources identified substantial shortages in equipment and workforce, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). A microsimulation model of 11 cancers showed that the scale-up of imaging would avert 3·2% (2·46 million) of all 76·0 million deaths caused by the modelled cancers worldwide between 2020 and 2030, saving 54·92 million life-years. A comprehensive scale-up of imaging, treatment, and care quality would avert 9·55 million (12·5%) of all cancer deaths caused by the modelled cancers worldwide, saving 232·30 million life-years. Scale-up of imaging would cost US$6·84 billion in 2020-30 but yield lifetime productivity gains of $1·23 trillion worldwide, a net return of $179·19 per $1 invested. Combining the scale-up of imaging, treatment, and quality of care would provide a net benefit of $2·66 trillion and a net return of $12·43 per $1 invested. With the use of a conservative approach regarding human capital, the scale-up of imaging alone would provide a net benefit of $209·46 billion and net return of $31·61 per $1 invested. With comprehensive scale-up, the worldwide net benefit using the human capital approach is $340·42 billion and the return per dollar invested is $2·46. These improved health and economic outcomes hold true across all geographical regions. We propose actions and investments that would enhance access to imaging equipment, workforce capacity, digital technology, radiopharmaceuticals, and research and training programmes in LMICs, to produce massive health and economic benefits and reduce the burden of cancer globally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness
  • Developing Countries / economics*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / economics*
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / economics*
  • Nuclear Medicine / economics*
  • Poverty
  • Radiography / economics