Using a scanner in the place of a scalpel could prevent thousands of cancer patients from having to go through risky surgery, study suggests.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to treat head and neck tumors, but again an operation is required so as to visually see the extent of the growth.
According to the publication made in the New England Journal of Medicine, a study was done on 564 patients who concluded that 80% of them could avoid the surgery process and instead use scanning.
The rates of surviving also remained the same.
Three hours are needed during the neck or head operation to check for cancer and the patient stays in the hospital for more than a week so as to recover.
Complications such as disfigurement or arm movement problems are risked in case vital nerves are destroyed.
PET-CT which stands for Positron emission tomography-computed tomography makes use of a radioactive dye that rapidly dividing cancer cells pick up.
The doctors therefore get to see whether the neck or head cancer is still active.
Prof Hisham Mehanna, from the University of Birmingham, told the BBC News website: “Cancerous cells hide among the dead cells, with PET-CT you can call them out and find out whether they’re alive or not.
“We can now use this new technology to save patients having a debilitating operation and identify those that need the operation rather than give it to everybody.”
The universities of Warwick and Birmingham conducted the study and found out that the survival rates were the same in scanning and surgical approaches.
But in each 5 patients, only 1 of them required an operation to do away with the cancerous tissue.
The Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman said that the trial was exciting and that it had the potential of positively impacting he lives of the neck and head cancer patients.