Background: An increasing carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level in the absence of disease on imaging studies can present a diagnostic challenge. We evaluated 2-[18F] fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose and positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) scan and CEA scan before second-look laparotomy as a means of localizing recurrent colorectal cancer.
Methods: Patients underwent computed tomography scan, bone scan, colonoscopy, and magnetic resonance imaging, and those without evidence of disease or resectable disease in the abdomen had FDG-PET and CEA scans. At second-look laparotomy, a surgeon blinded to the results of the FDG-PET and CEA scans performed an exploration and mapped findings. A second surgeon, with knowledge of the FDG-PET and CEA scans, then explored the patient; all lesions were biopsied or resected for pathology.
Results: In 28 patients explored, disease was found at operation in 26 (94%). Ten had unresectable disease. FDG-PET scans predicted unresectable disease in 90% of patients. CEA scans failed to predict unresectable disease in any patient. In 16 patients found to have resectable disease or disease that could be treated with regional therapy, FDG-PET scan predicted this in 81% and CEA scan in 13%.
Conclusions: FDG-PET scan can predict those patients who would likely benefit from a laparotomy. If the FDG-PET scan indicates resectable disease, laparotomy can be considered. However, if the findings predict unresectable disease or the absence of disease, the patient should pursue systemic therapy or continued observation.