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Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2004 Jun;31 Suppl 1:S125-34. Epub 2004 Apr 15.

Advantages and limitations of FDG PET in the follow-up of breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Nuclear Medicine and Endocrinology, PET/CT Center, LKH Klagenfurt, St. Veiterstrasse 47, 9020 Klagenfurt, Austria.


18F-Fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET) has been evaluated in breast cancer for the characterisation of primary tumours, lymph node staging and the follow-up of patients after surgery, chemotherapy and/or external radiotherapy. In contrast to both the low sensitivity and moderate specificity of FDG PET in the initial detection and characterisation of breast cancer and the low lesion-based sensitivity for lymph node staging, the results from use of FDG PET in re-staging breast cancer patients are very promising. A major advantage of FDG PET imaging compared with conventional imaging is that it screens the entire patient for local recurrence, lymph node metastases and distant metastases during a single whole-body examination using a single injection of activity, with a reported average sensitivity and specificity of 96% and 77%, respectively. In most studies the sensitivity of FDG PET is higher than that of a combination of conventional imaging methods. Limitations of FDG PET in the follow-up of breast cancer patients include the relatively low detection rate of bone metastases, especially in case of the sclerotic subtype, and the relatively high rate of false positive results. The rather low specificity of FDG PET can be improved/increased by utilising combined anatomical-molecular imaging techniques, such as a PET/CT tomograph. First results using PET/CT imaging in the follow-up of breast cancer patients demonstrate increased specificity compared with FDG PET alone. Both imaging modalities, however, offer to detect recurrent and metastatic breast cancer disease at an early stage and thus continue to demonstrate the efficacy of molecular imaging in patient management, despite the limited therapeutic options in recurrent and metastatic breast cancer.

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