PET/CT demonstrates value for ovarian cancer staging

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The utilization of PET/CT hybrid imaging of patients in the early stages of ovarian cancer can enable physicians to determine whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes without having to perform surgery, according to researchers at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s (SNM) 55th annual meeting, held this week in New Orleans.

Fewer surgeries for these patients would lower morbidity rates and postoperative complications.

“Our preliminary research indicates that using PET/CT scanning in this way could greatly improve quality of life for many patients with ovarian cancer,” said the study’s lead researcher Luca Guerra, MD, a nuclear medicine physician at San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, Italy. “PET/CT scans could allow many women to forego major abdominal surgery to determine whether their cancer has spread. It's a much safer alternative for determining the stages of ovarian cancer.”

Unlike many other types of cancer, there is currently no reliable screening test to determine whether a woman has ovarian cancer. Although CT and MRI technologies are useful in determining surgery in advanced cases of the disease, both have limited accuracy in staging ovarian cancer, according to the researchers.

Although systematic lymphadenectomy is more accurate in determining whether the cancer has spread, the surgery takes longer, often requires blood transfusions and can result in life-threatening complications.

In their research, Guerra and his team examined results of 30 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer who underwent PET/CT scanning before surgery to determine the stage of their disease. The results indicated that PET/CT staging was correct in 67 percent of patients and more than 98 percent accurate in scanning the lymph nodes of stage I and stage II ovarian cancer patients. These promising results need to be confirmed in a larger patient population, according to the researchers.