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Laryngoscope. 2005 Dec;115(12):2206-8.

Positron emission tomography scan to determine the need for neck dissection after chemoradiation for head and neck cancer: timing is everything.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon 97239, USA.


We present a case of a negative positron emission tomography (PET) scan in a patient with pathologic viable cancer at neck dissection.


Case Report.


A 69-year-old man presented with clinical stage T2N2c squamous cell cancer of the left tonsil and was treated with definitive chemoradiation. Left-sided adenopathy decreased but remained palpable after therapy.


PET scan performed 23 days after completion of treatment showed no suspicious uptake in the left neck. Neck dissection performed at 2 months post-therapy revealed viable tumor in left cervical nodes.


Persistent adenopathy after chemoradiation for head and neck cancer remains a clinical dilemma. A negative PET scan is accurate but only if the scan is performed 3 to 4 months after therapy.

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