Review of evidence-based support for pretreatment imaging in melanoma.
When making a new diagnosis of melanoma, clinicians often obtain imaging studies to rule out clinically occult distant disease. These studies range from inexpensive tests, such as chest radiographs, to more expensive studies, such as PET/CT. The impetus for ordering these studies is usually the desire to identify potentially resectable distant disease, avoid surgery when curative resection is not possible, and assuage patient anxiety by showing that no evidence of distant disease is present. However, some detrimental aspects to these studies are less apparent, including cost and potential for false-positive findings. Although routine use seems reasonable, the true benefit of these studies depends on the probability of clinically occult disease being present, likelihood that disease will be detected with the available technology, and impact of earlier detection on outcome. Contrary to current practice patterns, available evidence suggests that preoperative imaging studies are associated with significant costs and minimal benefit in most patients with melanoma. This article reviews available literature on the role of pretreatment imaging in patients with newly diagnosed cutaneous melanoma.
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