Positron emission tomography imaging in oncology

Radiol Clin North Am. 2001 Sep;39(5):883-917. doi: 10.1016/s0033-8389(05)70319-5.


The applications for FDG-PET imaging are rapidly growing and accepted in the field of oncology. FDG-PET imaging does not replace other imaging modalities, such as CT, but seems to be very helpful in specific situations where CT has known limitations, such as differentiation of benign from malignant indeterminate lesions on CT, differentiation of post-treatment changes versus recurrent tumor, differentiation of benign from malignant lymph nodes, and monitoring therapy. The biggest use of FDG-PET presently is in N and M staging of various body tumors. The addition of FDG-PET in the evaluation of oncologic patients in well-defined algorithms including a combination of imaging studies seems to be cost effective by accurately identifying patients who benefit from invasive procedures and saving unnecessary costly invasive procedures on patients who do not benefit from them. Although PET imaging may decrease the cost of health care by reducing the number of invasive procedures, implementation of clinical PET has been hindered by the high cost of the purchase, operation expenses, and maintenance of PET systems; the need for immediate access to a source of 18F (owing to the 110-minute half-life); and the limited reimbursement for clinical procedures by third-party payers. These combined factors have resulted in the development by manufacturers of hybrid gamma camera systems capable of performing positron imaging. These systems can be used to image conventional radiopharmaceuticals used in general nuclear medicine and positron-emitting radiopharmaceuticals. The performance of these camera-based PET systems has improved markedly over the past few years with the introduction of thicker NaI (T1) crystals, iterative reconstruction algorithms, and attenuation correction. These new developments in medical imaging instrumentation have contributed to the expansion of the number of cyclotrons, and have driven the concept of commercial FDG distribution centers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18