Results of a prospective study of positron emission tomography–directed management of residual nodal abnormalities in node-positive head and neck cancer after definitive radiotherapy with or without systemic therapy

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The purpose of this study was to present our prospectively evaluated positron emission tomography (PET)-directed policy for managing the neck in node-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (N+HNSCC) after definitive radiotherapy (RT) with or without concurrent systemic therapy.


One hundred twelve consecutive patients who achieved a complete response at the primary site underwent a 12-week posttherapy nodal response assessment with PET and diagnostic CT. Patients with an equivocal PET underwent a repeat PET 4 to 6 weeks later. Patients with residual CT nodal abnormalities deemed PET-negative were uniformly observed regardless of residual nodal size.


Median follow-up from commencement of RT was 28 months (range, 13–64 months). Residual CT nodal abnormalities were present in 50 patients (45%): 41 PET-negative and 9 PET-positive. All PET-negative residual CT nodal abnormalities were observed without subsequent isolated nodal failure.


PET-directed management of the neck after definitive RT in node-positive HNSCC appropriately spares neck dissections in patients with PET-negative residual CT nodal abnormalities. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2011

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