Accurate baseline staging is necessary to appropriately treat head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. [F-18]-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) is valuable for locoregional staging of primary head and neck disease. The effectiveness of FDG-PET for the detection of distant metastatic or synchronous disease remains unproven.
To investigate the utility of FDG-PET extended into the abdomen (extended-field FDG-PET) for wide-field staging of head and neck tumors.
This is a prospective institutional study of 35 consecutive patients diagnosed with American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC)-defined stage II-IV squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, oropharynx, or larynx between September 2000 and June 2002. Thirty-three patients (94%) were eligible for analysis. All patients were routinely staged with chest radiography, liver function tests, and extended-field FDG-PET. Chest or abdominal computed tomographic scans were used as corroborative studies and were obtained only when one of the above tests indicated distant disease.
Of 33 patients, 7 (21%) had evidence of distant disease by extend-field FDG-PET—4 with metastases and 3 with synchronous primary cancers of the aerodigestive tract. [F-18]-fluorodeoxyglucose PET detected hepatic, bone, gastrointestinal, and mediastinal disease not identified by chest radiography or liver function tests. Two of the 7 patients with FDG-avid distant disease had false-negative staging by all other tests, including computed tomography.
Extended-field FDG-PET is feasible and may improve staging of primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Use of staging FDG-PET must be explicitly described in reports from centers engaged in prospective research to facilitate comparison with historical results.