Positron emission tomography (PET) with fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) was used to differentiate recurrent or residual malignant disease from the effects of cancer treatment. Transaxial images were obtained after injection of 5-10 mCi (185-370 MBq) of F-18 FDG in 68 patients (including 33 with brain tumors) whose posttreatment computed tomographic (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) imaging findings had been suggestive of malignant disease. PET findings were correlated with surgical results in 18 patients and with the outcomes of CT, MR imaging, clinical, and laboratory 9-month follow-up studies in 50 patients. There was good agreement between F-18 FDG uptake and presence or absence of malignant disease except in four cases of brain tumors in which histologic findings could not be correlated with biologic behavior. The putative sensitivity and specificity in the 33 cases of brain tumors were 80% and 94%, respectively. The authors conclude that PET with F-18 FDG is useful in detection of previously treated metabolically active tumors but is limited in diagnosis of recurrent microscopic or metabolically inactive tumors.