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The Evolving Role of PET and PET/CT in Breast Cancer

Elizabeth Adams, MPH

*Medical Writer, Elizabeth Adams Consulting, LLC.
Address correspondence to: Elizabeth Adams, MPH. Email: ejadamsconsulting@verizon.net.
Disclosure: Ms Adams reports having no financial or advisory relationships with corporate or professional organizations related to this activity.


Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Early detection and improved treatment have improved outcomes in persons with breast cancer. Although mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT), and bone scintigraphy play important roles in the management of the disease, metabolic changes often precede anatomic changes and could be an earlier indicator of tumor response than that seen with conventional imaging. Whole-body positron emission tomography (PET) using the radiotracer 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) has become an important tool in oncology to visualize and quantify tumor metabolism. As we learn more about the complex intrinsic properties of breast cancer, PET's role will continue to evolve. With the growing popularity of dual imaging, PET/CT is rapidly supplanting conventional PET in the clinical and research arenas. This article will describe the basic principles of PET imaging using FDG and explore the potential roles for PET and PET/CT in breast cancer detection, the complex staging process, post-treatment surveillance and monitoring, and predicting response to neoadjuvant therapy. In addition, the advantages and disadvantages of PET and other conventional imaging modalities in the clinical setting will be described, along with current research needs and ongoing research efforts with PET in breast cancer.

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