Study Examines Effectiveness of PET Scans in Head, Neck Cancer

ENT study

The University of Missouri School of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery participated in a multi-institutional prospective blinded study through the Midwest Head and Neck Cancer Consortium. The study sought to determine whether additional PET scans affected the evaluation or treatment of patients with previously untreated head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

The study collected data from 52 patients between 2013 and 2015, allowing researchers to discover that adding PET scans did not affect tumor staging on any of the patients, but did affect node classification on 12 patients and changed the metastasis classification on five patients. The additional data from the PET scan prompted reviewers to alter treatment recommendations for three patients, less than 6 percent of the total patients studied.

The findings led the researchers to question whether it is worth the additional time and cost to use PET scans routinely for patients with advanced stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, stating the issue merits further study.

The MU School of Medicine was one of six institutions that participated in this research study, and served as the lead institution, which compiled and led analysis of the data. The findings were published in July by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.