Metastatic head and neck cancer: Role and usefulness of FDG PET in locating occult primary tumors

O. Sami Aassar, Nancy J. Fischbein, Gary R Caputo, Michael J. Kaplan, David C. Prince, Mark I. Singer, William P. Dillon, Randall A. Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To assess the usefulness of 2-[fluorine-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-D- glucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) of the head and neck in locating occult primary lesions in patients with metastatic cervical adenopathy. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Seventeen patients with metastatic cervical adenopathy of unknown primary origin were referred for FDG PET of the head and neck. All patients had undergone correlative anatomic imaging within 1 month of FDG PET. Surgical, clinical, and histopathologic findings were used to assess the performance of FDG PET. RESULTS: Increased apical lung uptake at FDG PET led to a biopsy-proved diagnosis of primary lung cancer in two patients. Of the remaining 15 patients, 10 had a focus of increased activity; directed biopsy of these sites led to confirmation of a primary carcinoma in seven patients. Correlative anatomic imaging failed to demonstrate the primary sites of disease in two of these seven patients. None of the five patients with negative FDG PET studies have manifested evidence of a primary site of disease during follow-up of 8-42 months (mean, 29 months). CONCLUSION: FDG PET allows effective localization of the unknown primary site of origin in metastatic head and neck cancer and can contribute substantially to patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-181
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999


  • Fluorine
  • Head and neck neoplasms, diagnosis
  • Head and neck neoplasms, emission CT (ECT)
  • Head and neck neoplasms, secondary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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