Positron emission tomography (PET) using fluorine-18 2-deoxy-2-fluoro-d-glucose (FDG) is of potential value for the diagnosis of malignant tumours. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of FDG PET in patients with breast tumours, appraising its applicability in visualising primary carcinomas and regional metastases in a clinical setting. Results of FDG PET were compared with those of mammography, breast ultrasonography and histology in 30 patients with inconclusive breast findings. For PET, transmission and emission images were taken in one or two scan positions, depending on the available time and the clinical status of patients. PET showed focal FDG uptake with high contrast in 21 of 23 primary carcinomas. In one patient, only PET correctly visualized multifocal disease (three foci, O 0.4-1 cm). The accuracy of PET in the detection of primary breast cancer was 90%, and in the detection of involved axillary lymph nodes, 94%. All metastases (lymph nodes, lungs, bones, soft tissues) covered by the field of view and demonstrated by other methods (X-ray, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, bone scan) showed FDG uptake. In three patients, only PET initiated further diagnostic procedures. The results indicate that FDG PET can provide a rapid diagnostic study (45-60 min) and allows accurate tumour staging of several organ systems for primary tumour and metastases with a single imaging study in a routine clinical setting.