The scan gives great anatomical detail including the size, shape and location of the tumor. Together, the tests provide the most complete data on the tumor and its spread, Carkaci said.
In the study, doctors scanned 41 women newly diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. They found metastases in 20 patients, or 49 percent. They used biopsy or additional imaging to confirm the results when possible. Biopsy confirmation of metastases were available in four of 13 patients and additional imaging confirmation in nine.
"We found that FDG-PET/CT is 95 percent accurate in identifying distant metastases and 98 percent accurate in identifying regional lymph node metastases," Carkaci said.
"This [scanning] is done immediately after diagnosis, and then following the chemotherapy, to evaluate the response to treatment," she said.
The hope is to stop the cancer in its tracks.
One co-author, Dr. Homer Macapinlac, chair and professor of nuclear medicine at M.D. Anderson, reported being a consultant for General Electric Company and Siemens AG. Both companies produce scanners.
The study findings are "significant for the high rate of metastatic disease, with almost one half of the women with PET/CT able to identify the tumors at an early stage," said Dr. David Bluemke, professor of radiology and medicine and clinical director, MRI, Johns Hopkins Medical Institution, Baltimore.
"The data is very compelling for routine and early use of PET/CT for patients with inflammatory breast cancer," he said. "Although the study was small, the high accuracy rate appears promising for patients with this condition."
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