F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography in the diagnosis of tumor recurrence and metastases in the follow-up of patients with breast carcinoma: a comparison to conventional imaging

Invest Radiol. 2003 May;38(5):250-6. doi: 10.1097/01.RLI.0000063983.86229.f2.


Aim: To evaluate the role of F-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography (F-18 FDG PET) in the follow-up of breast carcinoma in case of clinical suspicion of local recurrence or distant metastases and/or tumor marker increase in correlation to conventional imaging.

Material and methods: Retrospective analysis of the results of F-18 FDG PET (ECAT ART(R), Siemens CTI MS) of 62 patients (age 58.5 +/- 12.8) with surgically resected breast carcinoma (time interval after surgery, 86 +/- 82 months, mean follow-up 24 +/- 12.6 months). Patient- and lesion-based comparison with conventional imaging (CI) including mammography (MG), ultrasonography (US), computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radiography (XR) and bone scintigraphy (BS). Furthermore, we evaluated the influence on tumor stage and therapeutic strategy. A visual qualitative evaluation of lesions was performed.

Results: On a patient base, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV) and accuracy for detecting local recurrence or distant metastases were calculated to be 97%, 82%, 87%, 96% and 90% compared with 84%, 60%, 73%, 75% and 74% with CI. On a lesion base, significantly more lymph node (84 vs. 23, P < 0.05) and fewer bone metastases (61 vs. 97, P < 0.05) could be detected by using F-18 FDG PET compared with CI. Sclerotic bone lesions were predominantly detected by BS. On the other hand, there were several patients with more FDG positive bone lesions and also mixed FDG positive/Tc-99m methylenediphosphonate (MDP) negative and FDG negative/Tc-99m MDP positive metastases. In case of normal tumor markers, sensitivity, specificity, PPV, NPV and accuracy for detecting local recurrence or distant metastases were calculated to be 100%, 85.0%, 78.6%, 100% and 90.3% for FDG PET and 80%, 50%, 50%, 80% and 61.5% for CI. An upstaging could be observed in 9.7% (6/62) and downstaging in 12.9% (8/62), leading to a change in therapeutic regimen in 13 patients (21%).

Conclusions: F-18 FDG PET demonstrates apparent advantages in the diagnosis of metastases in patients with breast carcinoma, compared with conventional imaging on a patient base. On a lesion base, significantly more lymph node and less bone metastases can be detected by using F-18 FDG PET compared with conventional imaging, including bone scintigraphy. In patients with clinical suspicion but negative tumor marker profile, too, F-18 FDG PET seems to be a reliable imaging tool for detection of tumor recurrence or metastases. Considering the high predictive value of F-18 FDG PET, tumor stage and therapeutic strategy will be reconsidered in several patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18