Can positron emission tomography detect colorectal adenomas and cancers?

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Background and Aim:

Fluorine-18 2-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose positron emission tomography (PET) is effective and less invasive than other modalities used to diagnose tumors, including colorectal cancer (CRC). However, the detectability of adenomas and CRCs, especially in the early stages, is unclear.


We evaluated the records of 2323 consecutive eligible patients who underwent both a total colonoscopy (TCS) and PET between October 2002 and September 2012 at a tertiary cancer center. The PET findings were verified by TCS performed independently within 1 year. Target lesions were defined as CRCs and adenomas that were 6 mm or larger in size.


Total colonoscopy detected 532 target lesions ≥ 6 mm in size: 56 T2-T4 CRCs, 39 T1 CRCs, 223 advanced adenomas, and 214 low-grade adenomas. Of the 532 lesions, 216 (40.6%) were PET positive. Of the 369 cases with positive uptakes, PET detected target lesions in the matched segments for 58.5% (216/369). Sensitivity of PET to T2-T4 CRCs, T1 CRCs, advanced adenomas, and low-grade adenomas was 92.9%, 79.5%, 50.7%, and 9.3%, respectively. PET could detect 76.5% (13/17) of T1 CRCs whose size is 10 to 19 mm and 85.0% (17/20) of T1 CRCs equal or larger than 20 mm.


The multivariate analysis excluding T2-T4 CRCs showed malignant histology, larger size, protruded lesions, villous histology, and lesions in distal colon were significant factors.


Sensitivity of PET for detecting T2-T4 and even T1 cancers are promising. However, sensitivity of PET to adenomas, even advanced adenomas, is limited.

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