Background: The presence, extent and localization of distant metastases are key prognostic factors in breast cancer patients and play a central role in therapeutic decision making. The aim of this study was to compare the diagnostic performance of positron emission tomography using 2-[fluorine-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG-PET) with that of computed tomography (CT) and conventional imaging including chest radiography, abdominal ultrasound and bone scintigraphy.
Patients and methods: A total of 119 consecutive patients with newly diagnosed locally advanced disease (n = 69) or previous history of breast cancer (n = 50) who had clinical suspicion of metastatic disease underwent FDG-PET, CT and conventional imaging procedures. Imaging results were retrospectively compared with histopathology and clinical follow-up which served as a reference standard.
Results: FDG-PET detected distant metastases with a sensitivity of 87% and a specificity of 83%. In contrast, the sensitivity and specificity of combined conventional imaging procedures were 43% and 98%, respectively. CT revealed a sensitivity of 83% and a specificity of 85%.
Conclusions: In breast cancer, FDG-PET is superior to conventional imaging procedures for detection of distant metastases. Although FDG-PET and CT provided similar diagnostic accuracy, the information was often found to be complementary. With increasing availability of FDG-PET/CT, prospective studies are needed to determine whether it could potentially replace the array of conventional imaging procedures used today.