Whole body PET proves accurate in detecting breast cancer spread

Whole body 18FDG-PET is a more accurate test than CT for locating cancer spread in breast cancer patients, a new study shows.

Thirty-two patients (28 with cancer; two with high risk lesions and two with suspected disease) had both a CT examination and a whole body 18FDG-PET examination, says Simin Dadparvar, MD, associate professor of radiology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

The study was done at Hahnemann University Hospital, an affiliate of Drexel University. In addition, 29 of the patients underwent a bone scan, Dr. Dadparvar says.

Currently CT is the standard way to detect cancer metastases in the lung, liver, and other soft tissues, she says. "However, in our study, 18FDG-PET was twice as sensitive as CT in detecting cancer spread (93% sensitivity vs. 46% sensitivity), says Dr. Dadparvar.

18FDG-PET was also better at detecting bone metastases than bone scans, she says.

In addition to the high level of accuracy, 18FDG-PET means less radiation exposure to the patient.

The radioisotope, 18 Fluorodeoxyglucose, is injected into the vein one hour before the whole body PET examination. The majority of the radioactive material is excreted by the kidneys about eight hours after the examination, says Dr. Dadparvar. The CT examination, on the other hand, requires multiple scans of different parts of the body, which means more exposure to radiation. Since 18FDG-PET can detect cancer spread to soft tissue as well as to bone, the patient only needs to have the one test instead of having to undergo a CT examination then a bone scan, Dr. Dadparvar adds.

More research needs to be done on 18FDG-PET for breast cancer, says Dr. Dadparvar, but based on the results of this study, PET can help the physician stage the patient's disease, determine response to treatment, and assess if additional treatment is necessary. It can also be used to evaluate patients with recurrent breast cancer,

Contact: Keri Sperry
American Roentgen Ray Society

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