Combined CT, FDG-PET improves head/neck cancer treatments

Combining CT with fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) imaging results in significantly more defined tumor outlines and potentially different treatment options in head and neck cancer patients compared with using CT alone, according to research presented April 29 at the Cancer Imaging and Radiation Therapy Symposium in Atlanta.

In this trial, conducted at Utrecht University Medical Center, 327 patients were treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. Based on the combined approach of the CT scan and FDG-PET, the researchers noticed a change in the delineation of the tumor in one out of three patients, resulting in 10% of patients' treatment being changed and 33% of patients having their treatment adjusted.

In 17% of the patients, the primary tumor was not visible on the CT scan alone, mostly due to dental inlays.

"We expected there to be an improved delineation of the tumor," said Homan Dehnad, MD, study author and radiation oncologist at Utrecht University Medical Center. "However, we never expected it to have such an influence on the treatment options for patients. Each dedicated institute dealing with head and neck cancer should be equipped with multi-imaged facilities."

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