Purpose: [(18)F] fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET) imaging has been shown to be valuable in early detection of persistent and recurrent head-and-neck cancer after treatment. Previous studies have reported its use in patients treated with conventional radiation. Many patients are now treated with intensity-modulated radiation treatment (IMRT). We evaluated the value of FDG PET in the assessment of treatment response and surveillance in head-and-neck cancer patients treated with IMRT.
Methods and materials: We performed a retrospective review of 85 head-and-neck cancer patients treated with IMRT at our institution between December 2000 and September 2003 who had FDG PET in their follow-up. Of these, 58 were treated with primary IMRT with or without chemotherapy, and 27 were treated with postoperative IMRT.
Results: Sixty-four patients had negative initial FDG PET after treatment. Forty of them, who had 6 to 24 months of follow-up after the imaging study, had no evidence of local or regional recurrence, although three of them developed distant disease. Twenty-one patients had a positive initial FDG PET after treatment, with 11 positive at the primary site, 9 positive in the neck, and 3 positive distantly. Six of 11 patients with a positive FDG PET at the primary site were true positive, and 3 had salvage surgery. Eight of 9 patients positive in the neck had a salvage neck dissection. One had fine needle aspiration of the lymph node with positive cytology but refused surgery later. For patients with follow-up of 6 months and longer, only 1 of 45 patients with a negative initial FDG PET at the primary site developed a local recurrence. None of 49 patients with a negative initial FDG PET in the neck developed a regional recurrence. Two cases are presented in which abnormal FDG PET preceded laryngoscopy or computed tomography in detection of tumor recurrences.
Conclusions: FDG PET is useful in the posttreatment management of head-and-neck cancer patients treated with IMRT. It is highly accurate in the detection of persistent and recurrent disease after treatment and allows salvage treatment to be initiated in a timely manner. It also provides prognostic information concerning the risk of recurrence after curative therapy.