Current and future uses of positron emission tomography in breast cancer imaging

Semin Nucl Med. 2004 Jul;34(3):224-40. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2004.03.007.


Positron emission tomography using (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) has been used for the detection, staging, and response monitoring in breast cancer patients. Although studies have proven its accuracy in detection of the primary tumor and axillary staging, its most important current clinical application is in detection and defining the extent of recurrent or metastatic breast cancer and for monitoring response to therapy. PET is complementary to conventional methods of staging in that it provides better sensitivity in detecting nodal and lytic bone metastases; however, it should not be considered a substitute for conventional staging studies, including computed tomography and bone scintigraphy. FDG uptake in the primary tumor carries prognostic information, but the underlying biochemical mechanisms that are responsible for enhanced glucose metabolism have not been completely elucidated. Future work using other PET tracers besides FDG will undoubtedly help our understanding of tumor biology, improve our ability to measure and predict response and help tailor therapy to individual patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Axilla
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18* / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Neoplasm Staging / trends
  • Prognosis
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / trends*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18