Introduction: 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) may play an important role in staging patients with potentially resectable esophageal cancer but its impact on clinical management remains unclear.
Methods: In a multicenter prospective cohort study of patients with potentially resectable esophageal cancer, we compared stage of disease based on PET/CT with the stage based on conventional staging performed before PET/CT (American Joint Committee on Cancer, 6th edition). The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with a clinically important change in stage, based on PET/CT findings. We used health administrative databases to track health services use and mortality after the index PET/CT scan.
Results: Four hundred ninety-one patients who received a PET/CT scan for staging of potentially resectable esophageal cancer were included in the study cohort. PET/CT led to clinically important changes in stage for a total of 188 patients (24.0%): 107 patients (21.8%) were upstaged and 11 patients (2.2%) were downstaged. Results of PET/CT were associated with differences in actual management. At the 6-month follow-up, use of surgery was greater in patients with M0 disease (54.4%) compared with those with M1a (25.0%; p < 0.001) or M1b (7.3%; p < 0.001) disease based on PET/CT. The overall cohort had a median survival of 603 days, and higher stage of disease on PET/CT (i.e., M stage) was associated with shorter survival (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: PET/CT identifies disease not otherwise detected on conventional staging and results in clinically important changes in stage for an appreciable number of patients with potentially resectable esophageal cancer and can make important contributions to the management of these patients.