Breast cancer recurrence diagnosis suspected on tumor marker rising

Value of whole-body 18FDG-PET/CT imaging and impact on patient management




Breast cancer recurrence is often suspected on tumor marker rising in asymptomatic patients. The value of fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (18FDG)–positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) imaging to detect recurrence and its subsequent impact on patient management were retrospectively assessed.


PET/CT scans were performed on 228 asymptomatic patients (mean, 60.8 years; range, 30-91 years) presenting with rising CA 15-3 and/or CEA serum levels.


PET/CT scans were positive in 181 patients (79.5%) and normal in 47 patients, whereas 187 true recurrences were diagnosed. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, and accuracy of PET/CT imaging for detection of breast cancer recurrence were 93.6%, 85.4%, 96.7%, 74.5%, and 92.1%, respectively. When compared with the standard workup available in 67 patients, PET/CT imaging had a higher sensitivity and accuracy (94.5% vs 33% and 94% vs 48%, respectively). Recurrences were confirmed by pathology, conventional imaging techniques, or radiological and clinical follow-up beyond 1 year (mean, 34 months; range, 12-67 years) in 32, 130, and 25 patients, respectively. The diagnosis of recurrence led to a treatment modification in 123 patients (54%).


18FDG-PET/CT imaging is an efficient technique to detect breast cancer recurrence suspected on tumor marker rising in asymptomatic patients. It may thus contribute to improve patient management, providing an earlier diagnosis with complete whole-body staging as a “one-stop shop” procedure. Cancer 2011. © 2010 American Cancer Society.