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Post-treatment PET scans can reassure cervical cancer patients
Date:11/20/2007

St. Louis, Nov. 20, 2007 Whole-body PET (positron emission tomography) scans done three months after completion of cervical cancer therapy can ensure that patients are disease-free or warn that further interventions are needed, according to a study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"This is the first time we can say that we have a reliable test to follow cervical cancer patients after therapy," says Julie K. Schwarz, M.D., Ph.D., a Barnes-Jewish Hospital resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology. "We ask them to come back for a follow-up visit about three months after treatment is finished, and we perform a PET scan. If the scan shows a complete response to treatment, we can say with confidence that they are going to do extremely well. That's really powerful."

Schwarz and colleagues published their study in the Nov. 21, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Without a test like PET, it can be difficult to tell whether treatment has eliminated cervical tumors, Schwarz says. That's because small tumors are hard to detect with pelvic exams, and overt symptoms, such as leg swelling, don't occur until tumors grow quite large. Furthermore, CT and MRI scans often don't differentiate tumor tissue from surrounding tissues, Pap tests can be inaccurate because of tissue changes induced by radiation therapy, and no blood test exists to detect the presence of cervical cancer.

Cancerous tumors glow brightly in the PET scans used in the study, called FDG-PET scans, which detect emissions from radioactively tagged blood sugar, or glucose. Tumor tissue traps more of the glucose than does normal tissue, making tumors readily discernable.

Not only can post-treatment PET scans reassure those patients whose tumors respond well to therapy, they can also identify those patients whose tumors have not responded so that their physicians can explore other treatment options before the cancer advances fu
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Contact: Gwen Ericson
ericsong@wustl.edu
314-286-0141
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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