Detection of recurrent and metastatic colorectal cancer: comparison of positron emission tomography and computed tomography

Ann Surg Oncol. 1997 Dec;4(8):613-20. doi: 10.1007/BF02303744.


Background: This study evaluates the clinical value of positron emission tomography (PET) with 2-[F-18] fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) as compared to computed tomography (CT) in patients with suspected recurrent or metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC).

Methods: A retrospective review of the records of 58 patients who had FDG-PET for evaluation of recurrent or advanced primary CRC was performed. FDG-PET results were compared with those of CT and correlated with operative and histopathologic findings, or with clinical course and autopsy reports.

Results: Recurrent or advanced primary CRC was diagnosed in 40 and 11 patients, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of FDG-PET were 91% and 100% for detecting local pelvic recurrence, and 95% and 100% for hepatic metastases. These values were superior to CT, which had sensitivity and specificity of 52% and 80% for detecting pelvic recurrence, and 74% and 85% for hepatic metastases. FDG-PET correctly identified pelvic recurrence in 19 of 21 patients; CT was negative in 6 of these patients and equivocal in 4. FDG-PET was superior to CT in detecting multiple hepatic lesions and influenced clinical management in 10 of 23 (43%) patients.

Conclusion: FDG-PET is more sensitive than CT in the clinical assessment of patients with recurrent or metastatic CRC, and provides an accurate means of selecting appropriate treatment for these patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Prognosis
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18