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Guest Editor: I. Carrio

The Quarterly Journal of Nuclear Medicine 2001 September;45(3):245-56


language: English

PET imaging in breast cancer

Bombardieri E., Crippa F.

From the PET Unit, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Milano (Italy)


The basis of tumour imaging with PET is a specific uptake mechanism of positron emitting radiopharmaceuticals. Among the potential tracers for breast cancer (fluorodeoxyglucose, methionine, thyrosine, fluoro-estradiol, nor-progesterone), 2-deoxy-2-fluoro-D-glucose labelled with fluorine (FDG) is the most widely used radiopharmaceutical because breast cancer is particularly avid of FDG and 18F has the advantages of a relatively long physical half-life. Mammography is the first choice examination in studying breast masses, due to its very good performances, an excellent compliance and the best value regarding the cost/effectiveness aspects. However FDG-PET revealed to be effective in the study of patients with ambiguous mammographies. The FDG uptake in tissue correlates with the histological grade and potential aggressiveness of breast cancer and this may have prognostic consequences. Besides the evaluation of breast lesions, FDG-PET shows a great efficacy in staging lymph node involvement prior surgery and this could have a great value in loco-regional staging. Whole body PET provides also information with regard to metastasis localizations both in soft tissue and bone, and plays an important clinical role mainly in detecting recurrent metastatic disease. In fact for its metabolic characteristics PET visualizes regions of enhanced metabolic activity and can complements other imaging modalities based on structural anatomic changes. Even though CT and MRI show superior resolution characteristics, it has been demonstrated that PET provides more accurate information in discriminating between viable tumour, fibrotic scar or necrosis. Several clinical evidences demonstrated that FDG-PET is also able to predict wether cancer will respond to the therapy, or, when applied at the end of the treatment, it can assess the response to the therapy. These statements are coming from the examination of more than 2000 breast cancer patients included in 88 articles or abstracts on studies in which FDG-PET was used for breast cancer detection.

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