Early detection of recurrent disease by FDG-PET/CT leads to management changes in patients with squamous cell cancer of the head and neck

Lale Kostakoglu, Reza Fardanesh, Marshall Posner, Peter Som, Srikar Rao, Eunice Park, John Doucette, Evan Stein, Vishal Gupta, Krzysztof Misiukiewicz, Eric Genden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objective. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy of surveillance high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) and physical examination/endoscopy (PE/E) with the efficacy of fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET)/HRCT for the detection of relapse in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) after primary treatment. Methods. This is a retrospective analysis of contemporaneously performed FDG-PET/HRCT, neck HRCT, and PE/E in 99 curatively treated patients with HNSCC during post-therapy surveillance to compare performance test characteristics in the detection of early recurrence or second primary cancer. Results. Relapse occurred in 19 of 99 patients (20%) during a median follow-up of 21 months (range: 9-52 months). Median time to first PET/HRCT was 3.5 months. The median time to radiological recurrence was 6 months (range: 2.3-32 months). FDG-PET/HRCT detected more disease recurrences or second primary cancers and did so earlier than HRCT or PE/E. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values for detecting locoregional and distant recurrence or second primary cancer were 100%, 87.3%, 56.5%, and 100%, respectively, for PET/HRCT versus 61.5%, 94.9%, 66.7%, and 93.8%, respectively, for HRCT versus 23.1%, 98.7%, 75%, and 88.6%, respectively, for PE/E. In 19 patients with true positive PET/HRCT findings, a significant change in the management of disease occurred, prompting either salvage or systemic therapy. Of the 14 curatively treated patients, 11 were alive with without disease at a median follow-up of 31.5 months. Conclusion. FDG-PET/HRCT has a high sensitivity in the early detection of relapse or second primary cancer in patients with HNSCC, with significant management implications. Given improvements in therapy and changes in HNSCC biology, appropriate modifications in current post-therapy surveillance may be required to determine effective salvage or definitive therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1108-1117
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2013


  • Head and neck cancer
  • PET/CT
  • Surveillance and survival


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