New research shows positron emission tomography scans not only detect known abnormalities in cancer patients but may also identify new, unrelated cancers.
Researchers evaluated 1,750 PET scans of patients with known or suspected cancers to determine if the scans also identify unexpected abnormalities. They identified 58 abnormalities in 53 patients. Forty-five of these abnormalities were further evaluated with additional technology, and 42 of them were biopsied.
Results show about 70 percent of the biopsied abnormalities were cancerous tumors unrelated to the primary tumor already under study. Researchers say 92 percent of the patients with these secondary cancers reported no symptoms. Researchers say the unexpected abnormalities they followed up on were significant. Typically, these cancers were not symptomatic and were unrelated to the primary cancer for which the scan was performed.
Researchers say follow-up is important when PET scans reveal new findings. Researchers also say that if they had not pursued the abnormalities disclosed by PET, these patients would only have been treated for their known cancer while another malignancy remained undiagnosed.
PET scans identify areas of abnormal chemical and metabolic action. According to specialists, unexpected cancers are identified by PET technology because it scans the entire body. Researchers however say that PET scans identify certain cancers but do not detect all cancers.