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Oncologist. 2011;16(6):772-82. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2010-0378. Epub 2011 May 31.

Initial staging impact of fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography in locally advanced breast cancer.

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Department of Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.



Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) may reveal distant metastases more accurately than conventional imaging (CT, skeletal scintigraphy, chest radiography). We hypothesized that patients diagnosed with stage III noninflammatory breast cancer (non-IBC) and IBC by conventional imaging with PET/CT have a better prognosis than patients diagnosed without PET/CT.


We retrospectively identified 935 patients with stage III breast cancer in 2000-2009. We compared the relapse-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) times of patients diagnosed by conventional imaging with those of patients diagnosed by conventional imaging plus PET/CT. Univariate and multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to assess associations between survival and PET/CT.


RFS and OS times were not significantly different between patients imaged with PET/CT and those imaged without PET/CT. However, the RFS time in IBC patients was significantly different between patients imaged with PET/CT and those imaged without PET/CT on both univariate (hazard ratio [HR], 0.43; p = .014) and multivariate (HR, 0.33; p = .004) analysis. There was a trend for a longer OS duration in IBC patients imaged with PET/CT.


Among IBC patients, adding PET/CT to staging based on conventional imaging might detect patients with metastases that were not detected by conventional imaging. The use of conventional imaging with PET/CT for staging in non-IBC patients is not justified on the basis of these retrospective data. The use of conventional imaging plus PET/CT in staging IBC needs to be studied prospectively to determine whether it will improve prognosis.

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