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Impact of 18F-FDG PET on managing patients with colorectal cancer: the referring physician's perspective.

UNLABELLED: Whole-body PET imaging with 18F-FDG has been used successfully to stage colorectal cancer. However, the impact of FDG PET on patient management from the referring physician's point of view has not been determined.

METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to referring physicians to determine whether and how PET altered the management of colorectal cancer patients. Management changes, when present, were classified as intermodality (e.g., medical to surgical, surgical to radiation, medical to no treatment) or intramodality (e.g., altered medical, surgical, or radiotherapy approach).

RESULTS: Of 60 responses from referring physicians, changes in clinical stage were reported for 25 patients (42%). Among these, the disease was upstaged in 20 patients (80%) and downstaged in 5 patients (20%). The PET findings contributed to intermodality management changes in 22 of the 60 patients (37%), intramodality changes in 11 patients (18%), a combination of management changes in 4 patients (7%), and no change in 19 patients (32%). Two of the 60 patients (3%) had other changes, and no response to this question was received for the remaining 2 patients (3%). As a result of PET findings, physicians avoided major surgery in 41% of patients for whom surgery was the intended treatment.

CONCLUSION: This survey-based study of referring physicians shows that FDG PET had a major impact on the management of colorectal cancer patients and contributed to changes in clinical stage and major management decisions in >40% of patients.

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