Nuclear medicine imaging of lung cancer

Radiol Clin North Am. 2000 May;38(3):511-24. doi: 10.1016/s0033-8389(05)70181-0.


Although nuclear medicine imaging is still widely under-appreciated and underused by the medical and radiologic communities, FDG PET imaging and Tc 99m depreotide SPECT imaging are safe, cost-effective methods with advantages over CT and other imaging methods in the diagnosis and management of patients suspected or known to have lung cancer. Physicians involved in the care of these patients should familiarize themselves with both of these relatively new nuclear medicine imaging procedures. Both F-18 FDG PET imaging and Tc 99m depreotide SPECT imaging have a high degree of sensitivity, specificity, overall accuracy, and both PPV and NPV in the management of patients with a solitary pulmonary nodule. Nuclear imaging with either of these agents provides a noninvasive, cost-effective method to select patients for aggressive intervention without contributing to increased morbidity. There has not been a direct comparison of these two techniques in terms of their relative role and cost-effectiveness in the management of patients with a solitary pulmonary nodule. Both methods have incremental value over CT imaging in selecting patients with solitary pulmonary nodules either for invasive biopsy or for thoracotomy. To date, only FDG PET has been proved to have additional application in: 1. Improving the staging of patients by identifying or excluding mediastinal disease. Some authors are reluctant at the present time to deny patients an opportunity for curative resection based on the finding of foci of increased metabolism in the mediastinum (characterized by increased FDG activity) because there are occasional false-positive studies. They propose, however, that a negative study justifies a surgical approach (and an opportunity for cure) regardless of the findings on CT. 2. Evaluation of therapy and early detection of recurrence by using FDG PET imaging as a monitoring procedure. Tc 99m depreotide may have a role also in these other clinical indications for imaging in patients with lung carcinoma. It is too soon, however, to know if Tc 99m depreotide SPECT imaging, properly performed, can mimic the success of FDG PET in the detection or exclusion of mediastinal metastases, evaluating the response to therapy, and the early detection of recurrent disease during post-therapeutic monitoring.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / diagnostic imaging
  • Technetium
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Technetium