Is There a Role for Positron Emission Tomography in Breast Cancer Staging?
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Positron emission tomography (PET) with fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is a radiotracer imaging method that is used in the care of patients with cancer. We conducted a nonsystematic review of the literature regarding the applicability of this technique in patients with breast cancer, encompassing the impact of FDG-PET on surgical management, including axillary node staging and sentinel lymph node biopsy; the use of FDG-PET in the evaluation of the primary tumor; the role of FDG-PET in the evaluation of distant metastases both at diagnosis and in the investigation of suspected recurrence; and the ability of FDG-PET to predict treatment response. FDG-PET is not sufficiently sensitive to replace histologic surgical staging of the axilla. Although FDG avidity of the primary tumor has been shown to be an unfavorable indicator, there is insufficient information to recommend its routine use for this indication. FDG-PET is more sensitive than conventional imaging in the detection of metastatic or recurrent disease, but the impact of increased sensitivity on patient care and outcome has not been demonstrated. The data regarding prediction of treatment response are insufficient to reach any conclusion. There are a number of prospective, adequately powered clinical trials currently in progress that should provide more definitive answers regarding the role, if any, of this technique in the management of patients with breast cancer.
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