PET/CT brings new hope to patients with deadly form of breast cancer
CHICAGO, Nov. 27—Fluorodeoxyglucose PET combined with CT (FDG-PET/CT) is useful in identifying inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) earlier and provides information on loco-regional and global disease, according to a study presented today during the 93rd annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"PET/CT is useful in staging inflammatory breast cancer, because it provides information on both the primary disease site, as well as disease involvement throughout the rest of the body," said Selin Carkaci, MD, assistant professor of diagnostic radiology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center (UTMDACC) in Houston. "PET/CT is also a practical tool for therapeutic planning."

With FDG-PET/CT, researchers are able to accurately determine the location of metastases early in the disease process, when appropriate treatment can be administered.

"Breast cancer is not a local problem," said co-author Homer A. Macapinlac, MD, chair and professor of nuclear medicine at UTMDACC. "It is a systemic disease."

The retrospective study included 41 women, with a mean age 50 years, who were newly diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Each patient underwent a whole-body FDG-PET/CT exam.

According to the results, FDG-PET/CT depicted metastases in 20 patients (49 percent). These findings were confirmed by biopsy and supplementary imaging. FDG-PET/CT produced only two false positive results, identifying those areas as cancerous when in fact no disease was present, resulting in a 95 percent accuracy rate. The PET/CT scans were also able to identify instances of cancer involvement in the patients' lymph nodes with 98 percent accuracy.

Carkaci said that PET/CT early in the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer, physicians can determine the effectiveness of the therapeutic regimen and make changes as needed. PET/CT demonstrates in breast, regional nodal, and distant disease in IBC patients at initial diagnosis and aids in therapeutic planning.

"What's exciting about PET/CT is that it is able to detect disease in its earliest stages, when changes are happening at a functional and cellular level," Carkaci said. "This is quite different from other imaging modalities that identify disease when there is destruction of normal anatomy."