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Positron Emission Tomography (PET) in the diagnosis and staging of lung cancer

There is no longer any doubt that this relatively new imaging, which relies on the metabolic activity of the abnormality being imaged – thus high metabolic activity in cancer and low in most benign disease, forms a superior form of imaging in the staging and follow-up of lung cancer patients.
Indeed, recent studies have shown that PET scanning should be performed before operation in all patients; in some of these the extra sensitivity of PET in demonstrating early metastratic disease will obviate an unnecessary operation (i.e. there is no indication for a major lung operation when metastasis has been demonstrated). Furthermore, other studies have shown that early response on PET scanning, following initiation of chemo-radiotherapy for lung cancer, correlates with longer survival.