Positron-emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) in the initial staging of primary rectal cancer

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ObjectiveThe aim of this study was to assess the role of 18flourodeoxyglucose positron-emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) in the initial staging of primary rectal adenocarcinoma.MethodA total of 20 patients with adenocarcinoma of the rectum were assessed with both PET/CT and conventional staging (CT chest/abdomen/pelvis, MRI rectum). Discordance with conventional imaging and incidental findings on PET were recorded and the patients presented to a colorectal cancer multidisciplinary team to assess management changes. Patients were followed up so that discordant or incidental findings could be verified by intra-operative examination, imaging or histology where possible.ResultsPositron-emission tomography/computed tomography correctly identified the primary tumour in all 20 patients. Comparing PET/CT with conventional staging modalities, there were 11 discordant or incidental findings in nine patients (45%). This resulted in a potential change in stage in 30% (four patients downstaged and two upstaged). PET/CT suggested additional neoplastic pathology in three patients and excluded the same in two patients. The incidental neoplastic findings were of minor clinical significance and one was eventually deemed false positive. While PET/CT resulted in potential management changes in five patients (25%), no changes in surgical management occurred. When tumours were grouped according to conventional stage, PET/CT resulted in fewer changes in stage in stage I (0%), compared with stages II to IV (43%) (P = 0.08).ConclusionPositron-emission tomography/computed tomography provides additional information to conventional staging in primary rectal cancer. This information produced minor management changes in this study and did not effect surgical management. PET/CT may be most appropriately used selectively in more advanced stages and where indeterminate findings exist with conventional staging.

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