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Ann Thorac Surg. 1995 Dec;60(6):1573-81; discussion 1581-2.

Staging non-small cell lung cancer by whole-body positron emission tomographic imaging.

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Northern California PET Imaging Center, Sacramento 95816, USA.



A need exists for an accurate, noninvasive means of staging non-small cell lung cancer.


A prospective evaluation of regional and whole-body positron emission tomography (PET) imaging for staging lung cancer was carried out in 99 patients. Mediastinal PET and computed tomography findings were compared with results of surgical staging in 76 patients. Those PET and computed tomography findings that indicated possible distant metastasis were compared with biopsy results and the results of clinical and imaging follow-up.


Sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of N2 disease were 83% and 94% for PET and 63% and 73% for computed tomography, respectively. Positron emission tomography showed previously unsuspected distant metastasis in 11 patients (11%), with no demonstrated false-positive results. Normal PET findings were obtained at distant sites of computed tomography abnormality in 19 patients (19%). Clinical and imaging follow-up in 14 of these patients showed no evidence of metastasis. In 1 case, the PET result proved to be falsely negative.


Imaging with PET was more accurate than computed tomography for diagnosis of mediastinal and distant metastasis. Detection of unsuspected metastatic disease by PET may permit reduction in the number of thoracotomies performed for nonresectable disease.

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