Background: The purpose of our study was to determine the incidence and locations of M1 disease at presentation in patients with non-small cell lung cancer to help design appropriate preoperative imaging algorithms.
Methods: All patients with non-small cell lung cancer seen between 1991 and 1993 were identified, and records were reviewed. For patients with M1 disease, the sites of distant metastases and the methods of diagnosis were recorded.
Results: Of 348 patients identified, 276 (79%) had M0 disease and 72 (21%) had M1 disease. In 40 of 72 patients (56%), M1 disease was detected via chest or abdominal computed tomography (CT). Brain, bone, liver, and adrenal glands were the most common sites of metastatic disease, in decreasing order. Brain metastases often occurred as an isolated finding, although isolated liver metastases were uncommon.
Conclusions: M1 disease was common at presentation, and was often detectable via chest CT. The incremental yield of abdominal CT over chest CT was very small, and therefore abdominal CT is not an effective method of screening for metastases if chest CT has been performed.