Diagnosis, Staging, Radiation Treatment Response Assessment, and Outcome Prognostication of Head and Neck Cancers Using PET Imaging: A Systematic Review

PET Clin. 2020 Jan;15(1):65-75. doi: 10.1016/j.cpet.2019.08.010.


This systematic review summarizes the current applications of 18F-FDG PET imaging in the diagnosis, staging, radiation treatment response assessment, and outcome prognostication of head and neck cancers. For head and neck cancers of unknown primary origin, 18F-FDG PET/CT increases the likelihood of identifying the primary tumor and establishing the diagnosis. 18F-FDG PET/CT is important in the accurate staging of locoregionally advanced cases of HNSCC, which can greatly affect recommendations for treatment. Following definitive chemoradiation, 18F-FDG PET/CT is validated as a means of treatment response assessment. Emerging PET tracers of hypoxia and their potential applications are reviewed.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Head and neck cancer; Hypoxia; Outcome prognostication; PET/CT; Radiation treatment response; Staging; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography / methods*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / diagnostic imaging*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / pathology
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / radiotherapy
  • Thoracic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18