There have been recent studies of the 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and computed tomography (18F-FDG PET/CT) in the staging, detection, and follow-up of the breast cancer occurrence and recurrence. There was controversy concerning the use of 18F-FDG PET/CT for staging primary breast cancer. In this study, we investigated the potential effects of 18F-FDG PET/CT in the initial assessment of patients with primary breast cancer.
From January 2008 to December 2009, 154 consecutive biopsy-proven invasive breast cancer patients were enrolled in this study. Patients underwent conventional imaging studies including mammography, breast ultrasonography (USG), and magnetic resonance imaging for local assessment, and plain chest X-ray, liver USG, and bone scan to rule out distant metastasis. All 154 patients underwent 18F-FDG PET/CT in the initial assessment.
18F-FDG PET/CT did not detect primary breast lesions in 16 patients with a sensitivity of 89.6% and detected only 5 multiple lesions (12.5%) out of 40 cases. Histologically confirmed axillary lymph node (LN) metastases were in 51 patients, and the sensitivity and specificity of 18F-FDG PET/CT to detect metastatic axilla were 37.3% and 95.8%, respectively; whereas the corresponding estimates of USG were 41.2% and 93.7%, respectively. Eleven extra-axillary LN metastases were found in eight patients, and seven lesions were detected by 18F-FDG PET/CT only. The sensitivity and specificity of 18F-FDG PET/CT in detecting distant metastasis were 100% and 96.4%, respectively; whereas the sensitivity and specificity of the conventional imaging were 61.5% and 99.2%, respectively.
18F-FDG PET/CT cannot be recommended as a primary diagnostic procedure in breast cancer, but it has the potential to be used as an additional imaging tool for the detection of axillary metastasis, distant metastasis, and extra-axillary LN metastasis. 18F-FDG PET/CT cannot solely replace the conventional diagnostic procedure in primary breast cancer. The best approach may be the combination of different imaging modalities.