In head and neck cancer (HNC), 3-month post-treatment positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) reliably identifies persistent/recurrent disease. However, further PET/CT surveillance has unclear benefit. The impact of post-treatment PET/CT surveillance on outcomes is assessed at 12 and 24 months.
A 10-year retrospective analysis of HNC patients was carried out with long-term serial imaging. Imaging at 3 months included either PET/CT or magnetic resonance imaging, with all subsequent imaging comprised of PET/CT. PET/CT scans at 12 and 24 months were evaluated only if preceding interval scans were negative. Of 1114 identified patients, 284 had 3-month scans, 175 had 3- and 12-month scans, and 77 had 3-, 12-, and 24-month scans.
PET/CT detection rates in clinically occult patients were 9% (15 of 175) at 12 months, and 4% (3 of 77) at 24 months. No difference in outcomes was identified between PET/CT-detected and clinically detected recurrences, with similar 3-year disease-free survival (41% vs 46%, P = .91) and 3-year overall survival (60% vs 54%, P = .70) rates. Compared with 3-month PET/CT, 12-month PET/CT demonstrated fewer equivocal reads (26% vs 10%, P < .001). Of scans deemed equivocal, 6% (5 of 89) were ultimately found to be positive.
HNC patients with negative 3-month imaging appear to derive limited benefit from subsequent PET/CT surveillance. No survival differences were observed between PET/CT-detected and clinically detected recurrences, although larger prospective studies are needed for further investigation. Cancer 2013. © 2012 American Cancer Society.