(18)F-FDG PET/CT-positive internal mammary lymph nodes: pathologic correlation by ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration and assessment of associated risk factors

Carolyn L Wang, Marna J Eissa, James V Rogers, Aleksandr Y Aravkin, Bruce A Porter, J David Beatty
AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology 2013, 200 (5): 1138-44

OBJECTIVE: Metastatic breast cancer in internal mammary (IM) lymph nodes is associated with a poor prognosis. This study correlates (18)F-FDG PET/CT-positive IM lymph nodes with ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytopathologic results and determines risk factors for IM node positivity on PET/CT.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: For this retrospective study, a database search was performed to identify patients referred for whole-body (18)F-FDG PET/CT for initial staging or restaging of breast cancer from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2010. The radiology reports and images were reviewed for patients with (18)F-FDG-avid IM lymph nodes on PET/ CT and correlated with the cytopathologic results from FNA of selected PET/CT-positive IM lymph nodes. The patients with positive IM nodes on PET/CT who underwent PET/CT for initial staging were compared against age-matched and tumor size-matched patients to identify risk factors for IM node positivity on PET/CT.

RESULTS: One hundred ten of 1259 patients (9%) had an (18)F-FDG-avid IM lymph node on PET/CT. Twenty-five patients underwent ultrasound-guided FNA of a suspicious IM node, and 20 IM lymph nodes (80%) were cytologically proven metastases from the primary breast malignancy. High tumor grade, the presence of lymphovascular invasion (LVI), and triple receptor-negative hormonal receptor status were found to be significant risk factors for IM node positivity on PET/CT (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Although fewer than 10% of breast cancer patients have positive IM nodes on (18)F-FDG PET/CT performed for initial staging or restaging, a positive IM node indicates a very high likelihood of malignant involvement on ultrasound-guided FNA. The presences of high tumor grade, LVI, or triple receptor-negative status are risk factors for IM node positivity on (18)F-FDG PET/CT.

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