Usefulness of FDG-PET/CT in the detection of pancreatic metastases from lung cancer

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The objective of this study was to assess the ability to detect pancreatic metastasis of lung cancer and to clarify the degree of fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) accumulation and computed tomography (CT) characteristics of pancreatic metastasis from lung cancer.


A total of 573 patients (415 men and 158 women) with lung cancer were retrospectively evaluated. All patients underwent FDG-positron emission tomography (PET)/CT with contrast-enhanced CT for first=stage (313 patients; initial study group) or follow-up study (260 patients; follow-up study group). A lesion was regarded as positive for metastasis on the basis of visual judgment of the degree of increased metabolism by two experienced and independent interpreters, supported by semiquantitative evaluation on the basis of calculation of the maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax).


Abnormal accumulations in the pancreas were detected in 5 of 313 patients (1.60%) in the initial study group, and 6 of 260 patients (2.31%) in the follow-up study group. Seven of these patients had adenocarcinoma, three had small cell carcinoma, and the rest had large cell endocrine carcinoma. Tumor sizes (longitudinal diameter), measured by CT, of these 11 patients ranged from 6 mm to 52 mm (mean ± SD 8.3 mm ± 11.9 mm), and SUVmax for 1 h ranged from 3.37 to 11.1 (mean ± SD 6.12 ± 2.43). Three of these pancreatic lesions were difficult to determine by routine transaxial images, and detection was obvious only by thin-slice images or multiplanar reconstruction images. Contrast-enhanced CT showed gradual fill-in from the peripheral portion to the center. In addition, 10 of 11 cases did not show main pancreatic duct dilatation even if the tumor size was large.


Metastases to the pancreas in lung cancer patients are not so rare and radiologists first have an important role to detect the pancreatic mass and then suggest to metastasis as the likely diagnosis. For this purpose, FDG-PET/CT has an advantage in depicting unsuspected pancreatic metastasis from lung cancer, particularly that which is not detected by CT alone.

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