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BACKGROUND: [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography/computed tomography ([18F]FDG-PET/CT) has been implemented sporadically in hospital settings as the standard of care examination for recurrent breast cancer. We aimed to explore the clinical impact of implementing [18F]FDG-PET/CT for patients with clinically suspected recurrent breast cancer and validate the diagnostic accuracy.

METHODS: Women with suspected distant recurrent breast cancer were prospectively enrolled in the study between September 2017 and August 2019. [18F]FDG-PET/CT was performed, and the appearance of incidental benign and malignant findings was registered. Additional examinations, complications, and the final diagnosis were registered to reflect the clinical consequence of such findings. The diagnostic accuracy of [18F]FDG-PET/CT as a stand-alone examination was analyzed. Biopsy and follow-up were used as a reference standard.

RESULTS: [18F]FDG-PET/CT reported breast cancer metastases in 72 of 225 women (32.0%), and metastases were verified by biopsy in 52 (52/225, 23.1%). Prior probability and posterior probability of a positive test for suspected metastatic cancer and incidental malignancies were 27%/85% and 4%/20%, respectively. Suspected malignant incidental findings were reported in 46 patients (46/225, 20.4%), leading to further examinations and final detection of nine synchronous cancers (9/225, 4.0%). These cancers originated from the lung, thyroid, skin, pancreas, peritoneum, breast, kidney, one was malignant melanoma, and one was hematological cancer. False-positive incidental malignant findings were examined in 37/225 patients (16.4%), mainly in the colon (n = 12) and thyroid gland (n = 12). Ten incidental findings suspicious for benign disease were suggested by [18F]FDG-PET/CT, and further examinations resulted in the detection of three benign conditions requiring treatment. Sensitivity, specificity, and AUC-ROC for diagnosing distant metastases were 1.00 (0.93-1.0), 0.88 (0.82-0.92), and 0.98 (95% CI 0.97-0.99), respectively.

CONCLUSION: [18F]FDG-PET/CT provided a high posterior probability of positive test, and a negative test was able to rule out distant metastases in women with clinically suspected recurrent breast cancer. One-fifth of patients examined for incidental findings detected on [18F]FDG-PET/CT were diagnosed with clinically relevant conditions. Further examinations of false-positive incidental findings in one of six women should be weighed against the high accuracy for diagnosing metastatic breast cancer. Trial registration Clinical.Trials.gov. NCT03358589. Registered 30 November 2017-Retrospectively registered, http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

Original languageEnglish
Article number93
JournalEJNMMI Research
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 22. Sept 2021


  • Accuracy
  • Distant metastases
  • Incidental findings
  • Recurrent breast cancer
  • [ F]FDG-PET/CT


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