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Combo PET/CT Scan Helps Spot Breast Cancer's Spread
Date:11/27/2007

Technique helps detect metastases earlier for women with inflammatory breast cancer, study finds

TUESDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A technique that combines a PET scan with a CT scan can help spot the spread of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare but very aggressive form of the disease, researchers report.

"It is a quicker way of assessing everything," said lead researcher Dr. Selin Carkaci, assistant professor of radiology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "Our results show it is very useful," she said.

Carkaci was expected to present her findings Monday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago.

According to the American Cancer Society, IBC accounts for 1 percent to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States. Often by the time it is discovered, it has spread. The five-year survival rate for those with IBC is 25 percent to 50 percent, according to the cancer society.

The new combo technology has been used in recent years for assessing other cancers as well, Carkaci noted. While the separate technologies of PET (positron emission tomography) and CT (computed tomography) have been in use since the early 1970s, their combined use came into practice only about eight years ago. Patients being treated at cancer centers across the United States should have access to this test, which is becoming more common, Carkaci said.

The technique she used is called FDG-PET/CT -- for "F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and computed tomography".

In a PET scan, a small amount of the radioactive drug F-18-labeled glucose is injected into the body. Fast-growing cancer cells feed on sugars and absorb it more quickly than do normal cells, Carkaci explained, so they "light up" on the images created by the PET scanner.

On the other hand, "the CT scanner takes a series of X-ray pictures, which are
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