PET for Breast Cancer
Using PET for the evaluation of patients with breast cancer
PET scanning is useful for evaluation of patients with breast cancer. This diagnostic procedure is covered by most insurance as well as Medicare (CMS). FDG PET scanning offers the advantage of whole body imaging, with the typical PET scan imaging the area from the level of the eyes through the pelvis. PET scanning is most useful in staging of patients with more advanced breast cancer. However, PET scanning has limited sensitivity for staging the axilla in patients with early breast cancer, which is better evaluated using lymphoscintigraphy for sentinel node identification and axillary lymph node dissection.
PET scanning can identify recurrent breast cancer and breast cancer that has spread or metastasized, even when other diagnostic imaging tests such as MRI or CT are negative. FDG PET can detect breast cancer that has spread to bone (bone metastases) similar to a bone scan, but offers the advantage of evaluating the soft tissues of the body as well as the bones.
PET scanning can be useful in determining whether medical therapy or radiation therapy is achieving the desired effect on the tumor. FDG PET scans performed in patients with breast cancer that is responding to therapy show a decrease in the amount of radiotracer. PET is able to predict the effectiveness of therapy, such as a decrease in the size of a mass, before any other imaging test shows a change.