Background: The objective of this investigation was to determine whether F18-fluoro-deoxy-glucose (FDG) positron-emission tomography (PET) could differentiate between local recurrence and late radiation effects after radiotherapy for laryngeal/pharyngeal cancer.
Methods: In a prospective study of 75 patients (67 larynx, eight oro/hypopharynx), 160 laryngoscopies and 109 FDG PET scans were performed on the head and neck region. The mean follow-up time after the first FDG PET scan was 23 months (minimum 1 year).
Results: Local recurrence was diagnosed in 37 patients: 19 after the first biopsy and 18 after follow-up biopsies. For all of the negative initial FDG scans (27), the biopsies that were taken at the same time were negative and no recurrence was seen for at least 1 year. The first FDG scan was a true positive in 34 of 48 patients. In 12 of the 14 patients with false-positive results, FDG scans were repeated; a decreased FDG uptake was found in 9 of the 12. The sensitivity and specificity of the first scan were respectively 92% and 63%; including subsequent FDG scans, the rates were 97% and 82%, respectively.
Conclusions: When a local recurrence is suspected after radiotherapy for cancer of the larynx/pharynx, an FDG PET scan should be the first diagnostic step. No biopsy is needed if the scan is negative. If the scan is positive and the biopsy negative, a decreased FDG uptake measured in a follow-up scan indicates that a local recurrence is unlikely.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Head Neck 23: 933-941, 2001.