Staging of untreated nasopharyngeal carcinoma with PET/CT: comparison with conventional imaging work-up
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We prospectively compared PET/CT and conventional imaging for initial staging of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).
A total of 111 patients with histologically proven NPC were investigated with PET/CT and conventional imaging (head-and-neck MRI, chest X-ray, abdominal ultrasound, and bone scan) before treatment. The respective findings were reviewed independently and then compared with each other.
With regard to T staging, PET/CT showed a discrepancy with head-and-neck MRI in 36 (32.4%) of the study subjects. With regard to N staging, PET/CT showed a discrepancy with head-and-neck MRI in 15 (13.5%) patients. Among the discordant cases, MRI was superior in demonstrating tumor involvement in the parapharyngeal space, skull base, intracranial area, sphenoid sinus, and retropharyngeal nodes while PET/CT was superior in demonstrating neck nodal metastasis. PET/CT disclosed 13 of 16 patients with distant malignancy compared with four patients disclosed by conventional imaging work-up. The false-positive rate of PET/CT was 18.8%. PET/CT correctly modified M staging in eight patients (7.2%) and disclosed a second primary lung malignancy in one patient (0.9%).
In NPC patients, MRI appears to be superior to PET/CT for the assessment of locoregional invasion and retropharyngeal nodal metastasis. PET/CT is more accurate than MRI for determining cervical nodal metastasis and should be the better reference for the neck status. PET/CT has an acceptable diagnostic yield and a low false-positive rate for the detection of distant malignancy and can replace conventional work-up to this aim. PET/CT and head-and-neck MRI are suggested for the initial staging of NPC patients.
KeywordsPET/CT MRI Nasopharyngeal carcinoma TNM staging
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